Working in public safety, I have noticed a frightening and under-recognized trend: a dramatic increase in post-traumatic stress among emergency responders. This issue is near and dear to my heart, as it has at times taken a grip on my life and the lives of my closest friends.

A tremendous number of our brave and dedicated armed forces members suffer from PTSD. I feel for them and have tremendous respect for them. Thankfully, there are treatment modalities for their conditions.

Emergency responders are the forgotten protectors of the homeland. We manage the crises of strangers on a moment’s notice. We train tirelessly to serve and protect, to heal the sick and injured, and to mitigate disasters. We respond to incidents that most people couldn’t conjure up in their worst nightmares. We face human lives falling apart before our eyes, their fate literally resting in our arms.

We maintain a stone face, a comforting tone and a steady hand while others cry, collapse or even lose their grip on reality. Yet we do so day after day for little pay and with minimal recognition because of our unyielding commitment to service.

What if emergency services weren’t available in times of need? Have people considered the devastation that rests within the hearts and minds of our local police officers, firefighters, dispatchers and EMS providers? I have. I feel it every day, and I see it in my coworkers.

May the Lord protect our servicemen and women, but maybe he also can spare a prayer for emergency responders, because PTSD — diagnosed or not — is alive and spreading in our profession.

There is a blatant oversight in our society, and we need to protect and heal the hearts, minds and souls of those who respond in our times of need.

Joshua Wheeler

Winthrop


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