Provider Suicide – A Letter From Someone’s Coworker

This letter came in from a medic in a part of the US the other day. Iím posting it with a few edits, but the message is very much intact. These are better words than I can type, and Iím glad she is putting this raw and poignant message out there.

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One of our medics committed suicide the other day.

While enjoying my dinner of chocolate pudding cups and beer (don’t judge me), I started to get a bit philosophical (and tipsy) and I wrote this about my feelings.

The idea that EMS eats our young has come up a bazillion times before; But what if we’re not eating our young, what if we’re killing them? As healthcare professionals we should know that mental health problems are more common that most people realize, and that millions of people with a mental health disorder function in society every day with no one knowing the wiser.

How many of those people are our co-workers?

I can’t remember how many times I’ve heard co-workers bitch about all the psych patients they had that day, or how stupid/worthless/horrible “those patients” are, or laugh at self-harm or a failed suicide attempt. It is a never ending stream of putrid hate that spills out of their mouths where psych patients are concerned. The overwhelming vibe is that they aren’t real patients. They don’t have real problems. They just need to suck it up and get over it.

What kind of affect is that having on those among us who are in a bad place? We talk about having a “work family” and the “brotherhood”, but when stuff gets real and someone is struggling, are they going to remember all those rants about psych patients or are they going to remember that bond?

People keep arguing that talking like that is just blowing off steam, †is part of the job, or whatever other BS they can come up with to justify their abysmal behavior. I say no way. Why do we tolerate that kind of behavior? How many of our young have we chased away because they hear us talking like that and think “I’m not one of them, I’m one of those horrible psych patients”?. How many of our young have we killed because we’ve convinced them they are sub-human for having a chemical imbalance? This has got to stop.

Why do we tolerate that kind of behavior?

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Anonymous medic, thatís pretty spot on.

I wonít harm your words by adding much to them, but I will say that it is each and every one of our responsibilities to watch our coworkers, support them, and actually, truly, honestly care.

I never want to get another one of these letters, but thatís probably an impossible wish. However, we can all make a difference if we take a step back, look around, and honestly care about ourselves and each other. We need to adjust our attitudes, refocus on what’s important, and remember that it’s our job to care. There really is a line where the dark humor we seem to pride ourselves on crosses into the realm where it isn’t funny anymore. We chose this profession out of compassion, didn’t we? We are privileged to be the people others call upon in their time of need and we need to remember that it truly is a privilege, not a right.

Be safe. Please. You may think that this is a corny line, but honestly and truly, youíre important to me. Please remember that.

Godspeed.

 

 

  • Anon

    As an EMS provider who attempted suicide in my early adulthood, I get so angry by the way we are taught about and discuss suicidal and psychiatric patients..the so called “EDP” in some areas. We teach in classes that they are crazed and violent, when most just want to hurt themselves or help. It is no wonder our colleagues feel they can’t reach out as it stymies so greatly. A few comments on Dr Bledsoe Facebook last month showed that with “good luck getting a job after this” when others were scrambling to help find and support a suicidal peer.

  • The Momma

    We have to acknowledge that bully is there, even at out highest levels. I think many of us have recognized it and are making a change in our own behaviors to show that we don’t accept bullying or discourtesy around us. I have hopes that we will be able to understand as a society that bullying hurts and kills. I recently made a choice to disassociate teaching from my regional office due to the person in charges tactics.

  • jana

    Amen we are all Gods children and we all have our own issues. It doesn’t make anyone any less important and it’s really dis heartning to think an ems driver would think any less of someone with mental issue’s. Half of the country is finding it difficult to deal with this place we call America anymore. Such hatred, judgement, and lack of love for one another . I really dont see it getting better until we can show more love and compassion for each other.

    • Kevin

      Ems driver … I am hoping you ment to say paramedic or EMT unless where you are from that is the only task they do (“drive”).

      Sorry I hate the stigmatism of ambulance driver always being used to describe our work.

      • http://www.lifeunderthelights.com Ckemtp

        I’m the author and I give her a pass. I don’t mind the terminology when it’s clearly not being used maliciously. Our profession’s image problem belongs to us. It’s up to us to change it.

      • Pudding

        I’m the anonymous letter writer and I also give her a pass, for the same reason Chris does.

      • LollyPop

        Hey there Kevin, Are we reading the same article??? We are talking about people who feel so invalidated that they take their life, Not people who still get worked up over something that haven’t changed in the last 23 years I have been associated with ems. You need to reread this article. You may or may not be one of the people Ckempt was talking about, but you sure present yourself as one. Take a deep breath and then tell me, why do you care what some person who is misinformed, not intentionally demeaning, calls you??? Who cares??? I know it can get annoying if you let it but in the context of discussing suicide?? Serious remediation required with this guy.

        • Guest

          Well I think we are talking about educating those who are misinformed, so I think someone implying our only skill maliciously or not is driving a large vehicle really really fast, would fall into the same category, however maybe not with the same urgency as the topic at hand. However to their defense they are commenting on a page designed around our profession, so that speaks more than most who refer to us as our less than flattering nicknames. I also took driver as maybe referring to someone who pushes forward, driving the profession, or maybe a teacher as a person who drives EMS forward. However to those who use the term “ambulance driver” maliciously yes if that was our only skill, then perhaps we should join NASCAR, get paid a lot more for that one skill, and a lot more love for it too. Also referring to someone in a demeaning name about their work can make them feel invalidated so to say someone needs remediation because they feel differently is unfair.

  • jem

    in the last 5 years i have had two co workers try to kill themselves, one died ,one has tried twice. its not our job to pass judgement, its our job to care for others in their dark hour regardless of the complaint.

  • BeenThere

    I have been one of those paramedics in a bad place before. We went on a call for a guy who shot himself in the head. We got there, and the guy looked very much like my boyfriend at the time. It turned out to be a very difficult call, I couldn’t get him intubated because of the damage, and we ended up out of service for an hour afterwards cleaning up the mess. But I wasn’t okay after that. I knew CISD was available, but I felt like if I asked for help, the other people at my station would look down on me.

    The call started to affect my ability to do other calls, and I ended up getting in trouble after the hospital put a patient in the waiting room instead of a bed. They decided to put me with a mentor to focus on the basics. The paramedic they put me with treated me like I was the dumbest, worst EMT/paramedic ever to walk the earth. She wouldn’t even let me put oxygen on patients. She verbally abused me constantly, and I got to the point when I dreaded going to work and was contemplating killing myself.

    I ended up having a panic attack in the middle of the station, and going on leave before quitting. I spent a couple months going in and out of psych hospitals for suicidal ideation and PTSD. Fortunately, I’m still here and I’ve got my symptoms largely under control. I am now studying to be a professional counselor and I hope to start an online “crisis line” for fire fighters and paramedics who might not otherwise ask for help.

    • Danielle Quinlin

      Any Paramedic, EMT, firefighter, or manager who treats their coworkers this way should be removed from EMS service forever! No excuses. This is abuse with long term effects. It is unacceptable on every level. The person who treated you this way is a freak!

  • Robin

    Life as a human being is a caring compassionate empathetic respectful loving experience , or it should be. Be careful how big and swift you throw your stones because YOU do live in a glass house. Don’t be so sure you won’t need help @ some point in your life. Chances are 100% you will. Pray someone will be there for you. When people resort to suicide as an option it is not because they want to die it’s because the pain of living is just too great

  • Pingback: Enough is Enough | EMS in the New Decade

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Chris Kaiser aka "Ckemtp"

I am a paramedic trying to advance the idea that the Emergency Medical Services can be made into the profession that we all want it, need it, and know it deserves to be.

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