St John of God senior therapist Dominic Hilbrink has been in the job 17 years and is no stranger to seeing the devastating effects Post Traumatic Street Disorder (PTSD) can have on emergency service workers and their families.
“We see mostly police and then ambos, a few firies, the odd State Emergency Services volunteer, and we even see people who work for the State Rail Authority, like train drivers,” Mr Hilbrink said.
“The unfortunate thing is that these organisations still essentially work with a culture of stoicism, they are trained to harden up and get on with the job.
“We often see people who sustained their traumatic stress injury years or even decades earlier that have just been soldiering on.
“They are very good at focusing on the job. The way people hold up is to work harder because it gives them something to focus on.”
Front line workers who witness the carnage that goes with horrific scenes often go into the job because they want to help people, but the stress of the job means that is often taken away from them, he said.
To help reinforce the positive aspects of the difficult job our emergency service workers do, St John of God Hospital at North Richmond is hosting a special morning tea later this month to thank those who do their jobs so well and share the stories of those they have helped.
“Often these people have gone into these jobs primarily because they want to serve the community,” Mr Hilbrink said.
“A lot of that is what brings meaning to their work and makes it bearable; they are willing to put up with what they put up with because they have a sense they are contributing something useful to the community.
“But once they become injured, they become isolated from their organisation and community and it strips away all that meaning and they lose touch with themselves as having done something meaningful for the community.
“We wanted to reconnect people with that [through this morning tea].”
Taking place from 10.30am to 11.30am on Thursday, September 27 – chosen for its proximity to Police Remembrance Day on September 29 – the morning tea is open to current and former emergency workers and will shine the spotlight on the way they help others.
Stories about how people in the Hawkesbury have been helped by emergency services workers will be shared to reinforce the positive impact that they have on people’s lives.
“[Those suffering PTSD] get stuck in the horrible stuff, but there’s people out there whose lives have been saved and changed when a police officer, for example, has come along at the right moment,” Mr Hilbrink said.
“There’s so many examples where these guys and girls are making a meaningful difference in people’s lives.
“On a personal note, the longer I have worked with these folks, the deeper appreciation I have got for what they have done for the community.
“They face all these horrible stuff so we don’t have to. I want to say thank you myself.”
Anyone who would like to share a story of how they have been helped by emergency service workers on the day should email Tania at Tania.Hoinville@sjog.org.au.
Emergency services workers who would like to attend should email firstname.lastname@example.org,au.