This letter came in from a medic in a part of the US the other day. I’m posting it with a few edits, but the message is very much intact. These are better words than I can type, and I’m glad she is putting this raw and poignant message out there.
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?
Anonymous medic, that’s pretty spot on.
I won’t 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 that’s 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, you’re important to me. Please remember that.