“What About Us?” The Uncomfortable Truth About The EMS Mental Health Movement.

The bodies were still out there in the streets, covered with makeshift body bags when they asked you to donate to the cause. Less than 18 hours had elapsed since 58 people were murder, and 500+ were injured and when they started the fundraiser.

No, this wasn’t for the victims or their families.

I have sat on this post for 19 days, wondering if I should post it or not. I decided that what I have to say, needs to be said.

I need to be clear here. The zealots have a “if you are not with us, you are against us approach.”  I want to preempt the rhetoric that is sure to follow that I am “perpetuating the stigma,” which seems to be the go-to defense when questions arise.

I support mental health initiatives for EMS providers and think people deserve care if they need it. I think every agency must feel responsible for their employee’s physical and mental injuries that occur from the job and even more for preventing these in the first place. I do not support their approach to the issue.

But, Jesus Christ…

It took less than 18 hours before the deaths of 58 people became about us, the rescuers.

For a problem that does not exist yet.

vegas cgc

We are told the money is being raised for the mental health issues that the EMS workers who responded to Las Vegas are going to suffer.

Unless the Code Green Campaign has developed clairvoyance this is speculation, perhaps not unreasonable, but still speculation.

The fundraising campaign exposes the assumption that is the foundation of the organization; when EMS responds to these calls some responders will develop mental health problems, some of them may even need inpatient treatment and rehab for substance abuse. The notion that their agencies will not pay for this and will not support their employees is implied as otherwise there would not be a need for this.

If I were a manager for a Las Vegas Fire, Law or EMS service I would be highly offended that an organization thinks I am not going to take care of my employees; that they need to set up a fundraiser to pay for things workers comp should be paying for. And it should be paying for it, just so there is no misunderstanding what I am saying.

Maybe the organizers of the fundraiser have inside info on this and I will have to eat my words, maybe I am overly optimistic about the level of caring and resources that Las Vegas EMS/Fire and Law agencies have at their disposal. If we employ Hanlon’s Razor at best this fundraising is an ill-conceived and insensitive attempt to help. At worst, it is something much different.

A line needs to be drawn in the sand. We need to stop making every tragedy about us. It is not our tragedy. How selfish is it to agree to help (by accepting the job) and within 16 hours of 58 people being shot to start saying that we need some money for us. We chose this field, we chose to help others. We were not drafted, conscripted, or otherwise forced in to some sort of EMS servitude.

We willingly agreed to this. We chose to have front row seats to all the shit that life serves up.

How about we let the families finish burying their dead before we make this about ourselves. Consider holding off on the fundraising until the funerals have finished  and let the nation mourn before the diatribes about what the rescuers had to endure that day begins. What the rescuers had to deal with is tragic, but it does not hold a comparison to the thousands of lives that were forever horribly changed that day. Go look at the dead, you owe them that much. Now imagine their families. Tell me again how bad we have it? http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-las-vegas-shootings-victims-list-20171002-htmlstory.html

EMS is about serving others, at least to some degree.

I won’t go all Mother Theresa here. I am not going to blow smoke up your ass and talk about how we are always on call or tell you that I would run in to a rain of gunfire to save someone because it is bullshit. I am probably not going to do that. I am no hero and I am going home in the morning after my shift if I have any say in it.

Someone needs to speak up and be the opposition. We are not all one call away from a mental health issue. Sorry, I know that might bother some people, but it needs to be said. If you find yourself preaching resiliency while at the same time saying we are all time bombs, you are full of shit.

No. Just No.



You are going to see dead and dying people if you are in EMS. You will see people in pain and suffering. You will see humanity at their absolute god damn worst.  You may see many people die in a short period of time. You are signing up for this.

And it is not about you.

You may need to reconcile who you think you are with who you really are. This may not be a skill that the majority of the population possesses; honest self-assessment flies in the face of the Dunning-Kruger effect which has apparently become an epidemic in society.
“Maybe you are wired different, maybe you are more resilient than others, maybe you have better coping skills than others” is what I often hear. Beats me, sure, maybe I am, I have no idea. I don’t know what kind of coping skills you have. I don’t know what kind of bullshit you are dealing with outside of work.  What I do know is some jobs require specific mental and physical attributes. Perhaps it is time here to go out on a limb and say that EMS and medicine in general require a certain personality type or at a minimum specific attributes.  No, I do not know how to screen for it or if that is even possible.

Life is short, violent and often brutal and has been this way for a majority of human history. Only recently, in the past few decades, have we become insulated from the reality of how life is.

EMS can be draining; it can exert both a mental and physical toll on those who do it, but the bleating of “what about us” while the blood is still in the streets is more than bothersome.

I imagine there will be some images that rescuers saw that day that they wish they could forget. Some providers may indeed get mental health issues from being at work that night and they should get all the assistance they need. If they do not get the help they need I do not think a few dollars thrown their way is the solution; we need to hold peoples feet to the flames here. We need to demand accountability from management and workers comp insurance.  We need to demand legislative changes and cultural changes, not a gofundme account that will pay for a few people to get some help or fund the staff trip to talk about awareness.