First responders know that the work they do has an impact on their outlook on life. Training for emergency workers includes awareness of and skills for applying mental health first aid. Most experienced responders and caretakers have faith that they will always bounce back after a tough case, call or response. The satisfaction they experience from a job well done and making a difference is great medicine. But if the pressure from performing, witnessing of suffering, and even vicarious distress from hearing about suffering is not balanced with satisfaction, we lose good people to other pursuits.

We are familiar with post traumatic stress that can lead to fixation on events, including experiencing dreams or waking thoughts about loss and suffering that interrupt other tasks. This is normal and can be remedied by getting back to life’s tasks and the support of family and friends. Often, people who survive a traumatic event come out of it better prepared to face challenge in the future. Of course, a person can also be overwhelmed, experiencing symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

You can invite your team members do assess their own risk of compassion fatigue as well as their compassion satisfaction reserves. It’s also helpful to ensure that family members of emergency managers and first responders understand the risk.

Green Cross Academy of Traumatology offers training and a list of tools for combating the cost of caring.  Post it in the break room. You never know who might need some support.

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