We live in a world where we are bound by social rules. These rules evolved through years and now, we may find some obsolete, absurd or even inhumane. Rules like women being unable to vote, slavery, child exploitation, etc., are examples of the rules we left behind; some of these rules were in writing while some were unwritten rules; and these are the most difficult to erase from society.
There is a generation that was educated with the premise that boys don’t cry, girls do not play “boy” sports, boys do not play with dolls and girls do not play with cars or tools, etc. Among these unwritten rules, there’s some that pertain to our profession: do not show weakness, do not be affected by your bad calls, never sleep during a night shift…
I can mention several more rules or “codes” preserved until now, all of them affecting us in different ways in our job performance, patient treatment, physically and mentally.
The “weakness” stigma is one of the most common in our profession; so much so some paramedics are still afraid to show any signs of weakness, thinking that will be less of a paramedic or not a good paramedic. Such thinking only makes paramedics not only avoid looking for help when needed but in the long term suffer from burn out, leave work due to stress, quit the job and in some cases, commit suicide.
Without any source, and do not quote me on this, I believe that male paramedics are more prone to the “feeling shield” than female paramedics. Let me explain my rationale behind this thought. As I said, most of the 30 year and older professionals grew up in an environment where boys weren’t allowed to show feelings because that was weak and it “makes you less of a man”. Obviously, that was wrong. Even nowadays, twenty years into the 21st century that fragile masculinity is present, and some might still be afraid to put their shield down and ask for help.
I want to invite all of my colleagues not to be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Do not hesitate and do not wait until it is too late. I am not sure if every province or employer in the country can support their paramedics in need but I hope everyone has someone to call, a friend, a colleague, family, a phone service, etc.
It is important to remember that to help others, first, we should be healthy, fit, well-rested and able to help ourselves when in need; otherwise, we are at risk of making mistakes or having accidents that could end in tragedy.
I will repeat it over and over and as many times as needed; it is ok not to be ok, do not be ashamed to talk, ask for help, and listen to the signs.