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I have been a first responder for almost ten years. I am a survivor of workplace sexual assault. I have been exposed to several traumatic scenes while on duty.
I was first diagnosed with PTSD in the fall of 2013. It stemmed mainly from two specific traumatic experiences that occurred on shift. I was struggling for a long time emotionally. Most of the time I would struggle in silence. I had been abusing alcohol for most of that time. Getting help for PTSD was challenging, and seemed like a constant struggle. It was either a battle with the city or with the Workers Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), but nobody had the solution. It often felt like I was caught in between and left alone to try to put the pieces together. Alcohol wasn’t enough anymore and I eventually turned to drugs to cope with my pain. I am not what you would think a typical addict looks like. I kept my job, my house, my car and I had a savings account. But I had a very dark secret that very few knew. This was my secret:
by Officer Leo Petrilli
Let me preface this missive, by categorically averring that this is not meant to be used as an excuse, but more of an explanation. At a very young age, I quit swimming in the ‘ocean we all share’ – that is life.
I chose to drink my feelings away. As a child, I was born into a strict European family, first generation in North America. My parents were indeed from the ‘OLD COUNTRY’. My mother had some issues of her own to be sure, and I bore the brunt of a lot of them. My abuse was multi-faceted – verbal, physical and especially emotional. Fortunately, I was never exposed to any sexual malfeasance; from my parents, or anyone else. However, my self-worth was erased. When I was in grade 3, I discovered my dad’s homemade wine and I had my answer. I didn’t start out as a blackout drinker. But I became one by the time I got to high school; and I had money in my pocket. Inside, I was hollow, angry and empty. Good or bad, I didn’t want to feel anything.
Suddenly, I was eighteen, and living on my own, and no-one knew anything about my being a drunk. Except me and God, and I didn’t care. It was so easy to be ‘gone away’. I was out of control, and without a care in the world.
by Jon Ammeson
I am also a husband, father, son and brother. And a Police Officer.
As I write this, tomorrow will be my 47th birthday. It will also be my one year anniversary of sobriety, and the beginning of a new life for me and my family. I feel very fortunate to be here today to share my story.
As a kid, I grew up in a troubled home. My father is a mentally disabled veteran and an alcoholic. My mother worked very hard to try to keep things together. I have one sister that is seven years younger.
I did very poorly in school and was supposed to graduate in 1986, but I had to continue another year to get my high school diploma. I experimented with alcohol and marijuana, among other things, with the group of boys that I ran with. Needless to say, we got into a lot of trouble.
by Erica Jordan
By the time I was a junior in high school, I knew that I was going to be a police officer. My sense of right and wrong had always been strong, and I was the one who often stood between bullies and the bullied. I knew without a doubt that this was my calling – to don the uniform, badge, and gun.
At seventeen, I became a police explorer, Troop 247 to be exact. The first meeting was at the Harker Heights Police Department. I walked into the first meeting not knowing anyone, and told them I would someday work for that very same department. They laughed, but I knew then this would be the place for my life’s work. When I was told I had to learn at least half of the 100 required 10-codes and half of the phonetic alphabet, I memorized all 100 of them and Adam through Zebra. I got excited every time I was given permission to ride with the officers. Even traffic stops fascinated me – everything did. I watched, and I learned. Immediately upon graduating high school, I began taking Criminal Justice classes at the local community college, and, as they say, the rest is history. I was hired two weeks after I turned 21.
My first call out of field training turned out to be a suicide by cop. I received a pat on the back and was told I did a good job. This was, in fact, the first time the chief of police had ever had anything nice to say to me. I lied my butt off to the psychologist I was required to see before I could return to duty and passed the shoot-don’t shoot scenarios with excellence. Inside, I was devastated, but I was a single mother, and I wanted this job more than anything. No one warned me that alcohol was not the way to handle a stressful event on the job; in fact, quite the contrary.
by Sarah Crain, Executive Director
HOW Foundation of South Florida
As civilians, we cannot fathom the trauma that those who serve our country go through (sometimes on an ongoing daily basis). Veterans experience trauma overseas, and our first responders experience it on our own soil. “Trauma” does not discriminate against whom it affects (though recent studies are now indicating there is a genetic predisposition to developing post-traumatic stress). A high percentage of people who experience post-traumatic stress turn to unhealthy coping methods: sometimes, they become binge eaters. Other times, they misuse drugs and alcohol.
In the brain, we have two types of basic cells: neurons and glia. These cells communicate with each other by both chemical and electrical signals. At an elementary level, think of electrical signals as a proverbial racecar, and the chemical signals as gateways. The racecar cannot pass through a gateway if the gateway is closed. The chemical signals open (or close) the gateways. Behind every motion of the human body is a series of electrical signals that had to be processed in order to execute that movement.
by James “Jimmy” Thomas
Police Officer, Shift Supervisor
Ontario, Canada Provincial Police
**very sensitive material for some readers**
As a police officer, we are hired for our Type A personalities. Within the sub-culture, we can quickly believe that we are “invincible” and don’t dare show vulnerability or mental illness. Canadian statistics show that 1 in 5 of us will suffer from a mental illness in our lifetime.
Thank you Peggy Sweeney, Don Prince and the Station House Retreat team for allowing me to contribute to their blog site. My story isn’t very different from many others in emergency services. Anyone working in the fire, medical or policing professions will see some horrific sights in their careers. Over time, some may become affected by the jobs that they are entrusted and expected to perform. That doesn’t make them weak or less than anyone else. It makes them human and for reasons yet to be clearly proven; some will become afflicted with an Operational Stress Injury. This is my story and a plea to never allow false pride to keep you from reaching out for help if you need it.
Station House Retreat is proud to introduce Billy Padden Director of Recreation firstname.lastname@example.org Billy Padden attained his bachelor's degree in…