October 30, 2017
Burnout in the fire service is an area of growing concern in departments across the nation. Have you been running on empty? Chronic sleep deprivation, repeated or prolonged exposure to disaster zones, or simply neglecting your personal life to work overtime are all scenarios many IAFF members face.
To take care of yourself and your crew, it’s important to know the signs of burnout and traumatic stress and when it’s time to ask for help.
Burnout is the feeling of extreme exhaustion and being overwhelmed, often caused by periods of continuous and extreme exertion, with little time to rest. This exhaustion may be accompanied by feelings of failure, cynicism or doubt that your efforts make any difference to those you serve. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) further identifies these commons signs of burnout:
Without intervention, burnout may be a precursor to more severe behavioral health issues.
While awareness has increased about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the fire service, it’s important to recognize that an individual need not directly experience a traumatic event to develop stress reactions. For some fire fighters or paramedics involved in disaster response, sifting through a destroyed neighborhood or delivering medical care to desperate citizens might take a deeper psychological toll than battling a blaze.
According to the CDC, secondary traumatic stress is considered the stress reaction resulting from exposure to another individual’s traumatic experiences, rather than from direct exposure to a traumatic event. Sometimes, accompanied by burnout, symptoms of secondary traumatic stress mimic those of post-traumatic stress, including alterations in mood, cognition, physiological arousal and intrusive thoughts or images.
Similar to post-traumatic stress, symptoms of burnout and secondary traumatic stress can greatly interfere with your ability to enjoy life or function at work or home. To decrease the likelihood of developing these symptoms, adopt a proactive attitude towards self-care today:
Even when practicing good self-care, sometimes the stress of the job can overwhelm your resources to cope. If you are feeling hopeless or consumed by unwanted thoughts or feelings, or you’ve resorted to drugs or alcohol to cope with your experience, NOW is the time to ask for help. Effective evidence-based treatments are available and often covered by your insurance.
The IAFF Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery is a unique treatment setting exclusively designed for IAFF members who are struggling with depression, addiction, PTSD and other mental health concerns. Compassionate and confidential screening is just a phone call away. Learn more about your options for taking back your life. Call (855) 999-9845 today.