Rychtowski adds that there has been a dramatic cultural shift within all emergency services. First responders are highly encouraged to drop the “tough it up” attitude and focus on using the support of the people around them after witnessing traumatic incidents.
“The tough part for people to understand is that we have to compartmentalize our emotional response so that we can get through the job. We are still affected by what we’re doing…the sounds, smells, sights. It’s how we delay our reactions is how effective we will be while relieving the stress that you’ve built up…It can be very difficult going through just one scene, let alone multiple scenes.”
He says that his firehall specifically holds regular meetings and information sessions on the Critical Incident Stress Managing systems in place, has 24/7 access to reach out to leaders, and an open door policy available for anyone who wants to relieve pressure after a critical incident.
“You’re not limp, lame, or lazy if you speak out. People are now looking it from a different perspective where it’s like how can we assist, how can we help these people avoid going down a slippery slope.”
Rychtowski says that general mental stress attacks each individual different. He says that although an open door policy is in place, it isn’t necessarily always easy for the individual to want to share their emotions, adding that he reaches out to the individual to make sure they know that someone cares.
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