The Trauma We Share

Have you noticed how first responders split off into their own “tribes” when all in the same room, even when in the same career field but work for different departments. It’s understandable since we are always more comfortable with those we share the same job with. It’s easier to relate. The job experiences are similar. We sometimes say “they” can’t relate to what “we” are feeling.

True brotherhood

Mississippi Highway Patrol. (Photo courtesy (Mary Ann Coggins Robertson)

As usual we are wrong. Stress and trauma is stress and trauma.

“We can learn to see each other and see ourselves in each other and recognize that human beings are more alike than we are unalike.”

– Maya Angelou

All first responders can still relate to the emotions of others who experienced a critical incident or personal crisis. Think about how one critical incident can involve all first responders at one time. We are all experiencing the same tragedy.

never ending attack

Chicago Police Memorial Parade, 2015. (Photo courtesy Mobilus In Mobili)

While we may have different reactions there are those who are experiencing the same mental trauma as you. So while your partner may not be affected, another LEO, CO, firefighter, EMT/paramedic or dispatcher, might. You’ll never know because we only talk to our own tribes. That is a shame. More than a shame, it’s a problem we should be able to find a solution to.

Recently we shared our story with the first responders working for Ford County & Dodge City, Kansas. When we asked the question about what critical incidents they have experienced it didn’t matter who answered the question. The answers were the same.

  • “Fatalities …”
  • “Infant death …”
  • “Child abuse …”
  • “Injury or death of a co-worker …”
  • “Suicides …”

These Kansas first responders have shared experiences. They recognized this in themselves. That room was a refreshing difference than what we were used to seeing. During breaks the police, corrections, fire, and E.M.S. easily intermingled. They knew each other on a professional and personal level. This shouldn’t be the exception. It should be the norm.

diary suicidal cop

(Photo courtesy DanSun Photo Art)

We have more in common than we think we do by sharing our stories and listening to a first responder from a different career field. But we have to want to do this.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

– Helen Keller

So now the challenge goes out to all the first responders, Peer Support teams and administrations. What will it take for us to make the change so we are all one tribe? Our mental health depends on it.

Cathy & Javier Bustos are law enforcement officers in Central Texas. As That Peer Support Couple, LLC they are strong peer support advocates speaking about surviving critical incidents and marriage. They often present their story with 1st Responder Conferences & Blue Help. They can be reached by email: [email protected]