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Addicted to Your Job?

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Written by Jeff Dill, retired Captain and founder of Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance

Are we addicted to the Job?

It is a simple question. Are we addicted to our jobs and is there a consequence that we pay because of our dedication? As you know I founded Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance in 2011 to track and validate our brothers and sisters who have taken their lives and to never forget them or their families.

Yet, these four years of traveling across the U.S. and Canada has afforded me the opportunity to theorize on some issues because of the thousands of people we have seen and spoken with. So, this is my theory only, but hopefully it will spark some thoughts and ideas within each of you that this would apply to. I started many years ago as a paid on call FF for Rutland-Dundee FPD and went to career in 1995 for the newly established Palatine Rural FPD in IL. I can recall many of my new brothers and sisters had outside jobs. Their talents of construction, roofing, landscaping, painting and other jobs kept them busy while earning some extra money. We would discuss how other FFs in surrounding departments had similar jobs so if you needed a tree removed you would call “Joe” at a neighboring department. Lately what I  have seen through my travels, is an issue that perhaps is adding to the already stressful job we have and creating more and more behavioral health issues for our brothers and sisters.

What is the issue? I have seen more firefighters and EMTs taking second jobs in other fire departments and EMS organizations. They leave one job and head to the second one for another shift, be it a twelve hour or twenty-four hour shift. They are constantly running fire and EMS calls. My concern is, when do you take time to process and rejuvenate your brain based on all the horrific calls that you see? I commend those for their dedication but I also have concerns that burnout could become a real issue and maybe sooner than later. How many of you have spent the day after shift reflecting on calls you went on the previous day? The days off, especially for EMS, are there for you to recover not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. If there are no gaps between how does our brain ever take a day off from the stress of the jobs?

In the coming year FBHA will be looking more into this issue but I wanted to throw this out there for you to comment on and tell me if you agree or disagree with my theory.

Stay safe my brothers and sisters and PLEASE SHARE….Thanks! Jeff

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3 Comments

  1. Frank March 14, 2016

    Good evening Jeff thank you for everything that you have been doing to educated our brothers and sisters on suicide awareness. I started my career in firefighting in 2004 as a volunteer went through EMT class and start my professional career in 2013. I worked in construction up until i started my full time as a firefighter. In the time before i worked full time i worked part time on the weekends and then once i got hired full time i would go to one of the two part time gigs i had and would work may be 12 to 24 hours. I can tell you that i have since quit working the part time gigs because of being in a fire house all time i was getting burned out. Once the weather breaks i will be going back to work in construction on the days off which i did last summer and it was a real stress reliever, being able to associate with people out side of the fire department.

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  2. Curtis Stevens March 30, 2016

    A very interesting concept.An addiction… much like a habit relies on a behavioral loop of stimulus behavior and reward. As firefighters weare all aware of the stimulus and the behavior… but we may mistake the reward As “feeling good for serving the community” where it may actually be the adrenalin rush. .. the rush is a double edged sword. We get off on it, but at the same time, that never ending surge of adrenalin lowers our more positive endorphins and causing us too seek other means to “feel good.” Unfortunately those means often lead to depression. .. which leads us to wanting that up…. A downward spiral … anyway. … a concept worth exploring.

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  3. Mike in Ca April 25, 2016

    Jeff

    You bring up an interesting point on the;

    “Two Hatter” issue.

    Yet how can one not want to at least volunteer for their home town FD, when they commute to their Career job an hours drive away in the adjoining community?

    In the past I did it for many years and then reached a point with my career department that it was time to start investing more time their.

    Net result, we were expanding in size and up staffing in personnel and Overtime days became my second job.

    But, even then, I had started to “pace” myself in the number of extra days I would work beyond my regular work shift.

    Then when I was off duty, I was “off duty”. Except when I went to a training class or conference I paid for.

    I do agree, everyone needs to get away from “The Job” for the mental health sake.

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