Saturday, September 29, 2018

Fire Department Captain opens up about PTSD and being courageous

Local firefighter opens up about dark side of the job
Posted: Sep 27, 2018
Robinson wants other first responders to know it's not only ok, but good to talk about how the calls affect them. And he wants to be an example of how you can come out the other side, and find a path back to happiness. Society, friends and family can all play a part in breaking the stigma around asking for help. "Ask the tough questions if you think someone is struggling. You will never regret asking, you will regret not asking."
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - "Suck it up buttercup." That's the stigma Kern County Fire Department Captain Derek Robinson is fighting to change. He's been with the department for more than 17 years. It was only last year that he himself dropped the act, and decided it was time to ask for help. In August he detailed that fight to overcome his emotional injuries, in a Facebook post. He's sharing that to help reach anyone else struggling with the same demons.

A study last year said first responders are more likely to die from suicide than in the line of duty. PTSD and depression rates among first responders are as much as five times higher than among civilians. Robinson didn't realize for years that he was among those suffering. But the Friday after Thanksgiving 2017 he was called to a scene that changed that. A family was ripped apart by a drunk driver. A mother and child killed in a crash along Highway 99. "You can't respond and not feel something, especially when you see the impact on the family. Here's a family on Thanksgiving day traveling and their lives were not just interrupted, but completely destroyed and they lost a mother and a child, you can't absorb that. You just can't." Robinson suffered from sleepless nights. He turned to self-medication at times. He lost relationships and lost his passion for the job. 

Years of repeated exposure to trauma had taken their toll. It was a month after that Thanksgiving crash that Robinson decided to seek help. That changed everything. "Where I am now is drastically different from where I am today by getting help. This is more of an injury and same as a physical injury it can be dealt with."
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