I’ve been working in the ambulance service for 11 years. I started off in the control room, taking 999 calls and dispatching ambulances. I’ve now been on the road for 6 years.
I like my job because we’re out and about, doing something different every day. No two days are the same. I also enjoy the social aspects of the job, laughing and joking with colleagues on the station.
It can be hard though. We’re getting busier and busier, and it does put a big strain on everybody. We’re often doing 12 hour shifts, and we work long periods without breaks. When I first started the job it was more manageable – there was time between jobs to reflect on things, talk to your colleagues and prepare yourself and your ambulance for the next job. These days not so much.
My mental health issues started about a year and a half ago. We went to a job that involved child abuse. It was awful. We did everything that we could, but unfortunately we weren’t able to save the child.
Initially after the job, I felt low, but I wasn’t drastically affected by it. It was about 24 hours later that thoughts started running through my mind. I couldn’t shake the image of the child from my head.
At work, I wasn’t acting like myself anymore; I wasn’t socialising as much with colleagues, and generally not interacting with people. It affected my home life too – it made me a grumpier person, and my patience was a lot shorter. It even started to affect my sleep, and I found myself having nightmares about it.
I’d often find myself just sat there, not really doing anything but thinking about the job, and thinking about whether there was anything else I could have done.
I’ve seen some pretty horrific things in the job – but of course different jobs affect people differently. I think it was the fact that I’ve got similar aged children myself. That’s why this job hit me so hard.
At the time, the mental health support at work wasn't as well-developed as it is now and I didn't know where to access support. So I ended up going to my own GP and they referred me to the in-house counsellor.
I was eventually diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I spent about four months off work, and had counselling throughout that time. Doing that, and having time for reflection, helped me a lot.
Talking to my peers has also been a massive help. It helps me realise that what I’m going through is normal, and that many people experience things like this from time to time.
I now feel back to my full self, and I feel like a stronger person for it. I mean it’s still sometimes in the back of my mind, but I know how to handle it now.
In the ambulance service, we like to have this feeling that we’re bulletproof, and sometimes you can feel a bit ashamed to admit that there’s something wrong with you. But we’re humans, not robots, and I want people to know that they shouldn’t be afraid to talk and seek help if they need it.