The name Teflon is synonymous with a chemical that is applied to cookware creating a nonstick surface. A cast iron skillet treated with Teflon (a discovery of the DuPont company), was the first to be sold on the open marketplace with the slogan “Nothing Sticks to Happy Pan.” So what does this innovative product (a delight to cooks-home and professional alike) have to do with being a first responder or peer support team member?
The life of a first responder is by no means an easy one, and nobody should have ever spoke to the contrary. On an annual basis we are exposed to: environmental elements, toxic products of combustion, bodily fluids, communicable disease, and hard strenuous work when it is called for just to name a few. We have all been there, done that, and got the free t-shirt when it comes to this business. Our calling is not only taxing on the body, but to the mind as well. Every time I have the opportunity to talk to the civilian population about my job, I always relate that I have seen things during my 20+ year career that the echoes of my mind will never, ever, let me forget. In other words, unlike the non-stick “Happy Pan” we are not Teflon-things can, and will stick.
Enter Illinois Firefighter Peer Support to the dynamic world of the fire service where no two days are alike. We have now become an organization of over 100 strong who have chosen to step up and help our brothers and sisters in need. There is not a request for assistance that goes by without several members answering the call at a moment’s notice. We all have come with our own story that may resonate with a peer in need. Although we do not have a magic wand to wave that will erase the echoes of the mind, it is our caring demeanor and understanding ear that can help them to reshape their doubts and fears into a different perspective. If they need services beyond our capacity- we can offer that as well. This begs the question- Do we wear a coat of Teflon as a peer supporter?
Recently, I have reflected at great length on this subject matter to which the answer requires further investigation or at the very least a serious conversation. It has always been my understanding that professional counselors and psychiatrists (who spend years in the listening field) themselves need someone to talk and debrief in order to cleanse and avoid trauma to their psyche. If they do it, why not us? Think back when you attended the initial peer support training and listened to your classmates each in turn tell their reason for being there. Did this affect you in anyway?
It is the greatest honor and privilege to be a part of this organization that lends a helping hand to others in need. So, to answer whether or not we are coated in Teflon- I am leaning towards not. I think it would be prudent to reach out and debrief with someone, even if just to say “I am doing okay.” It would be awesome if any of our clinical consultants or other team members could weigh in on this topic and add their level of expertise to this conversation as well. Please submit to firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay safe and be well,