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Archive for November, 2015

Addicted to Your Job?

PTSD symbol design isolated on white background. Anxiety disorder symbol design

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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Scholarship Announcement

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On behalf of the Board of Directors and Founder of Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance, we have selected Seth Livengood, 23, of Treynor, IA to receive one of our five scholarships in memory of Firefighter Scott C. Bellucci. Seth is attending Walla Walla University in Billings, MT. The scholarship in the amount of $500.00, has been applied to his college tuition for the 2015-2016 school year.

Seth is the son of Heather Livengood and the late Wm. Richard Livengood. Rich worked for the Omaha Fire Department as a firefighter and paramedic for 15 years and was promoted to captain in 2008.  He was a member of the department’s Special Operations team, Dive Rescue Team and the Nebraska Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue Team. Rich was also an Army Veteran-Avionics Mechanic that worked on helicopters. Sadly, Rich passed away on March 26th 2014.

FBHA and FF Bellucci’s family wish Seth the best of luck and much success in the years to come as he pursues his Master’s degree in Social Work.

To find out more about our scholarship program or to make a donation to support the program,  please see the Scholarship Program Page on  tour website at www.ffbha.org.

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“Only a crowd can make you feel so alone” Line from “Before They Make Me Run” from the Rolling Stones’ album – Some Girls, -Keith Richards

November 17, 2015 – “Beyond the Fire” Entry 2

Guest writer: Retired Fire Chief Matt Shobert

As the fog began to clear after two initial, major surgeries, and as I weaned myself off the heavy-duty painkillers, I began to realize my life was different – substantially.  I was the guy who used to wake up at 4:45 AM to get in an eight-mile run before work; now it took me two hours just to get out of bed.  I literally felt like I was attached to my bed with Velcro.  While I don’t think it was ever a viable option, I contemplated suicide.  The thought of facing the day seemed unbearable.  Feelings of depression, anxiety, sadness and anger replaced my life as Fire Chief and Ironman Triathlete.  I often wished I had died in the field, on July 2, 2014.  For those of you who have been to San Diego, I couldn’t (still can’t) drive over the Coronado Bridge without visualizing myself pulling over, stopping my car and jumping off the bridge.

While shopping at the super market one Sunday afternoon, shortly after my second big surgery, I thought I was having a massive heart attack (Fred Sanford style)!  I had all the telltale signs and symptoms:  DB, CP, anxiety, numbness in my hands and fingers.  I thought I was dying.  My wife wanted to call 9-1-1; I let her take me to “my” closest fire station, where “my” Firefighter/Paramedics diagnosed me with my first real-life anxiety/panic attack.  Trust me; these are no fun! Oh my God, I thought, I have become one of “those” people, you know, the kind of person, where we would roll our eyes and pass judgment on, when we get called to their house at 3:00 AM for their panic attacks and anxiety issues.

A few days later, we went back to the hospital on a post-surgery follow-up.  I came clean with the surgical team about my “mental issues.”  They directed me to my personal physician and cautioned me that I may be suffering from an Acute Stress Disorder (ASD).  The next day I saw my personal doctor.  He referred me to a psychiatrist and counseling.  Soon I was on two different medications for depression and anxiety.  I had great difficulty finding a counselor who specialized in fire service Post Traumatic Stress (PTS).  ASD eventually becomes PTSD after a few months, if it doesn’t go away.   Even on the new meds, things were a little better, but I was still angry, sad, anxious, depressed or preoccupied with the thought that maybe I’d be happier if I were dead.

I realized I was still in trouble with no real end in sight.  This 29.5-year fire service veteran, with lots of accolades, degrees, experience and knowledge, ten years as a fire chief and Ironman Triathlete needed additional help.  Thankfully, I knew where to turn and had the strength and courage to do so.

Jeff Dill and I had become acquaintances about a year before my tragic accident.  You know how these things happen in the small world of the fire service.  Luckily, I had Jeff’s number and I knew his mission.  I called him and told him exactly where I was physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  He advised me to hang on and called me the very next day with the contact information for LMFT Tina Casola, who had been working with battle-scarred veterans for the past several years.  She agreed to take me on as her new client/project.

Maybe some hope…  Again, “when in doubt – reach out!!”

“Today’s physical, mental and emotional preparedness, determines tomorrow’s performance.  Train like your life depends on it – because it does!

-Matt Shobert, Fire Chief Retired

 

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Scholarship Announcement

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On behalf of the Board of Directors and Founder of Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance, we have selected Kayla Hill, 19, of Philadelphia, PA to receive one of our five scholarships in memory of Firefighter Jack Slivinski Jr. Kayla is attending the Aria Health School of Nursing in Trevose, PA. The scholarship in the amount of $500.00, has been applied to her college tuition for the 2015-2016 school year.

Kayla is the daughter of Ann Hill and the late Timothy Glatthorn. Timothy was a firefighter for the Philadelphia Fire Department and was also an Army veteran. Kayla states she is following in her dad’s footsteps to help people.

FBHA and FF Slivinski’s family wish Kayla the best of luck and much success in the years to come as she pursues her dream of being a nurse.

To find out more about our scholarship program or to make a donation to support the program, please see the Scholarship Program Page on our website at www.ffbha.org.

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