By Samantha Smith – Armor Up West Virginia
Being a 911 dispatcher is not a job for just anyone. Multitasking is an absolute must. Every time the phone rings you never know what will be on the other line. Dispatchers are all too often over looked and not considered a first responder. Who do you think sends the first responders? They don’t magically know where to go. 911 dispatchers are the FIRST ones to offer help or assistance, figuring out where you are when you have no idea and being the calm reassuring voice during your storm.
After working there and dealing with a multitude calls, anxiety started to creep in. The not knowing of what you will hear on the other end of the line, a parents screams as their child is still in a burning house, a parent finding their only child with a self-inflicted gunshot wound or giving instructions to an elderly female whose husband has just hung himself.
I found myself waiting a split second to answer a phone. “I’ll be faster next time or stalling “finishing up the last call” any excuse to delay answering… that ringing line. Shifts kept feeling longer, never ending, a constant headache or tightness / tension in my shoulders, my attitude at home was becoming bitter.
“I’m fine” or “it was just a long shift” easing becoming my normal. I did not want to admit the job was taking a toll. My marriage was suffering. I was great at my job. I loved my job. The rewarding moments were amazing. The team work on a shift of everyone working together, it’s completely indescribable. I could see other coworkers struggling, but this was normal or was it?
It’s easy to see in hindsight that I was starting to spiral downward. I never admitted the job was taking a toll. All the things I heard were just part of being a seasoned dispatcher. It’s important to learn the signs and symptoms of PTSD and know when you need to step back and ask for help. Understanding it’s ok for trauma to affect you, if you are willing to fight for you. Who saves our unsung heroes? When do you start fighting for yourself?
If you, someone you love, or someone you know needs help, contact:
Safe Call Now: 24 Hour Hotline: 206-459-3020
For more information on the First Responder Wellness Program: Click here
Or call Shannon Clairemont at: 661-466-6352 or Vanessa Stapleton at 304-651-3008