Caduceus

Exciting mental health history & EMS/fire hiring

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Hi y'all, it's been a couple of years since I posted. I doubt anyone remembers me (I was the annoying kid who posted drawings & pretended that she knew things! :D). I have a bit of a long story for you though! 

I'm currently a freshman at university and a student police cadet with my university PD. I'm also a volunteer firefighter when I'm home. I'm really enjoying it. 

Here's the catch! A couple of months ago I became depressed & have been diagnosed with depression. I am trying antidepressants. The first meds I took (lexapro) made me feel suicidal so I had to stop taking them. I've never really had an issue with depression, but back in high school I cut myself a few times and thought about committing suicide a lot because I had a family member check out. 

My high school stuff is a major red flag for law enforcement hiring, but luckily it's not on my medical record, I've never been involuntarily committed, and I haven't self-harmed in ~3 years. No scars either, they all faded w/ time. (My cat gave me a few on my wrist that look suspicious, though :P) I did get put on leave from my cadet program because I'm going on meds & they wanted me to take time to balance everything out & get healthy.

My questions: 

1) will this come up in EMS/fire hiring? 

2) will it keep me from getting hired? 

3) Any cops on here with advice on how to handle these issues in the hiring process? 

To be blunt, I'm not looking for people to tell me whether or not I should go into this career. I know it is stressful. I'm aware of what you guys go through. However I don't have suicidal tendencies or the urge to self-harm. When I am not depressed I handle stress pretty well. Unfortunately, at this point, I need medication in order to function, but I'm confident I can get back on my feet with meds and to a place where I can handle the stress. 

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I don't think there's anyway a person can know how stressful the job is without doing it for a few years and running some terrible calls, I sure didn't...but you didn't want advice on that so against my better judgment I'm going to skip that part.

First, I would be super careful posting about depression/suicide if there's ANY way the post can be traced to you. Police departments do online searches of your name and some are VERY thorough.

Question 1-I've worked for about 4 different EMS agencies and besides asking how I handle stress nothing about depression or mental health has come up. 

Question 2- If the department requires a physical exam the meds might come up, I've worked with several people who were on anti-depressants and it didn't interfere with them getting hired in EMS.

Question 3- I recently went through the sheriff departments hiring process, and it is VERY intense. You do a long background investigation and they contact quite a few people.You also have to pass a psychological evaluation where you meet with a psychiatrist. Mine asked me different questions about stress and how I deal with people and situations, it got pretty detailed. I spent about 20 minutes talking to him, I don't know how your history would affect this part.

Good luck with whatever you decide.

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I have heard about the mentioned topics before as well, I see where you're coming from.

 

I, myself am on Antidepressants, and Antipsychotics, but I fear with my Mental Health diagnosis and history, I might not be "suitable" for EMS personnel position.... Advice? 

Thank you, you as well. 

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I've never met nor assessed you medically so I really can't give advise as to your suitability to any position (never mind one in the emergency services). What I will say is this, working in emergency services is a well known precipitating factor to the development of critical mental illness (most frequently PTSD). Do you want to work in such a field when you yourself have already expressed mental illness from which you have not yet recovered?

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Ah, okay. That is true about the PTSD part, I already have that, but it's much better... I'd sure hope to, I think it'd be a nice thing to do. 

 

How do you like it so far? 

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2 minutes ago, Lili said:

Ah, okay. That is true about the PTSD part, I already have that, but it's much better... I'd sure hope to, I think it'd be a nice thing to do. 

 

How do you like it so far? 

I still love my job but it has changed a lot over the last 10 years. I started out in a rural community where the station did 700 calls a year (working as an EMR which is essentially the same as an EMT - B). Presently I'm most of the way through a Critical Care Paramedic program and working fixed wing/rotary air-evac (CCP programs are a Canadian thing involving roughly 5 years of post secondary education and a tremendous amount of clinical time). Every once in awhile I do get to be the cog in the machine with the ability to prevent disaster for someone. That part is an incredible privilege.

 

The give and take in this job is not to be underestimated. Paramedic education programmes are rigid/inflexible as a rule. I've missed numerous family events and important happenings as a result. The tolls that missed events, long stressful shifts (particularly nights), and in your case as a US citizen lousy pay, take on you add up. I know without question my life will be shortened as a result of my service. Think long and hard about whether the increased mental health risk, increased heart disease/stroke risk, and shortened life-span are acceptable trade-offs for doing this job long term.

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That's actually very neat, wow, 700, must be very busy for you then!   :) 

You must feel very happy that you get to work with a machine to prevent disaster. Amazing, and very lucky. 

Hahaha have looked at Salary and they are pretty lousy... True, though. I am more into just helping people though, and not really about money... I think it's that way with most EMT's, maybe even you?  

Yeah, a their programs have us taken for a while... Never actually really thought about life being shortened as a service result... I reckon that is accurate, but I am curious about maybe we can help ourselves like we help others? Or does it not work quite that way...? 

 

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Nobody works in EMS as part of a get rich scheme, but making enough to be able to participate in the lifestyle you desire outside of work is certainly of value. EMS workers in countries like Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are afforded a different level of pay/respect than that received by most US providers. As much as pay and respect can't be primary motivators, those two things have a powerful effect on career longevity.

 

If you choose EMS as a career the most disastrously unhealthy thing you can do is allow it to become your everything. Your non-EMS friends become a lifeline to the outside world. Don't let them go. Whatever your other passions are maintain them.

 

As for helping ourselves, frankly we're lousy at it as a group and certain risk factors will never be avoidable. Night shifts will always exist, paramedics will always be placed in stressful situations, and schedules will always make healthy diet/exercise habits difficult (but not impossible).

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