We’ve all been there. It doesnt matter if your married, dating or just friends- there are times when your firefighter has had a rough time and they don’t want to talk about it.
It’s tough for them living with those thoughts and memories, and it’s tough for you, as you watch them suffer (in silence or by acting out in other ways) and you don’t know how to help.
Or maybe you are doing your best to help and you want some reassurance that you are doing the right thing.
Whatever you are feeling, just know that you aren’t alone. As we become more aware of behavioral and mental health, we begin to understand just how complex the brain really is!
Let’s take a look at a few things you can do when your Firefighter doesn’t feel like talking.
*** Please note- this is not medical advice, nor to I pretend to know everything about PTSD, mental health, or the education that medical professionals have. This is my personal experience with my family and the mental health professionals we have talked to over the years. I strongly encourage you to get help if you or a loved one is suffering from PTSD, suicidal thoughts, or you need help. For immediate issues, call 911.
First things first, understand that it’s normal to have bad calls
It’s just a part of the job. People from all walks of emergency responders and trauma intervention will experience bad calls.
Some days will just be bad days. If one call isn’t enough to shake the strongest of people, a series of bad calls (or a larger tragic event) will bring event the top dogs to their knees.
So when we hear that our Firefighter had a bad call, we have to remember that other people experience this as well.
Which is good and bad. There is strength in numbers, but there is also a stigma around ‘being weak’. Even if the whole crew experienced the same thing, there are those that are willing to talk about it and those that aren’t.
Not to mention, some of the Fire stations will ignore this and won’t share how common this is with the spouses.
It can be a very touchy subject at work depending on the type of culture for that Fire Station. Talk to your firefighter (hopefully ahead of time) and ask them about their experience with talking to their team mates about hard calls.
This will give you some insight into how they might process the call (if everyone ignores it, your FF might ignore it too!) and it will also tell you if you are one of the only ones your firefighter can talk to, or if they have other people that might be able to lend an ear.
Be there, even if they can’t tell you what’s wrong
This is likely the most important thing to remember. You just need to be there for them, even when they can’t talk about it. This can be a gentle touch, or just someone to watch TV with.
Try to remember that they need time to work through what they have experienced and it can be difficult to come to terms with what they have seen (and everything else they may be questioning at that point!)
It’s not you, it’s them
What else can you do?
You can contact someone, especially if things get serious. You can take care of yourself and learn how to love and care for yourself (fill your cup, so you can help them fill theirs).
You can learn more about the type of things that could steal your firefighter from you, and why we need to be aware of mental health related to the job. .
Most importantly, you can help to break the stigma around what Firefighters, Police Officers, Military and other first responders experience- both on and off the job.
They see some really heavy stuff, and the world takes them for granted.
Learn the Triggers
You have so many resources available for you to learn more about PTSD, depression and suicide in first responders. Please don’t hesitate to reach out. Here’s some great places to start.
What Else Can you Do?
If you feel that you or your FireFighter needs help, reach out. There are so many resources available, both at your station, in your community and online.
The Statitics are there- Firefighters are taking their lives at numbers that, quite frankly, are too damn high.
While you can’t force your Firefighter to talk about it, you can be there and do what you can (while still filling your cup) so that you can help them in their time of need. Sometimes that means they will retire early, sometimes it means they need to get counseling.
At the end of the day, we hope that they know how valuable they are to their family, and that they can get through this!