Emergency dispatching can be an odd creature in so many ways. One moment, you can be laughing at the most ridiculous of calls and the very next moment can be the most serious call of your entire career. In my ten plus years as a police dispatcher, I have literally heard the extremes at both ends of the spectrum.
One reason that I believe that I have basically “survived” for this long in this noble profession, is because I generally came into it with my “eyes open”. You see, I am the son of a police officer. Right from my formative years, I could remember my dad in uniform. I don’t really remember him doing anything else except being a policeman. He was (and still is) my hero and I did have the dream to wear the uniform just as he did, but alas it was not meant to be, for various reasons. However, I was able to enter into the career of a police dispatcher, which I believe to be just as equally rewarding.
While I have “survived” to this point of my career, I am not without my “scars”. I have experienced some of the most horrific calls that one could imagine. Even though I have never been physically present at the scenes, I have still been there and seen them in my mind. These have left me with some memories and feelings, that I would prefer to forget, but I am not able to completely do so. Despite my “scars”, I still believe that I am able to make a difference. Not only with the caller’s that I deal with shift to shift, but also with my fellow dispatchers and the officers that we work with.
Now, this career definitely does provide us with some quite funny moments. These moments, are actually more frequent than one who is not in this profession may think. Some of them are from caller’s, some from the officers and quite a few are provided by my fellow dispatchers. These light, comical moments, can be a major stress reliever. One such incident, is how I came up with the idea of “Dispatch Monkey”. I started to create funny posters (the younger generation might call these “memes”) and sharing them with coworkers and some officers. I received quite a few compliments and it was suggested by some, that I should create a Facebook page, or Twitter account for him. So, that is how Dispatch Monkey was officially “born”.
After creating the Facebook and Twitter pages, I found that I was connecting with quite a few fellow dispatchers and other emergency service personnel from around the world. Places such as Queensland Australia, the UK, South Africa, The Good Ol’ USA from California, to Illinois, to Connecticut and of course from across Canada as well. It has been interesting and fun to connect with so many first responders from around the globe!
Initially when I had started Dispatch Monkey, it was to share humor, with the added goal to also help smash some misconceptions about emergency dispatch. However along with the humor that I shared, or saw from others, I also began to notice another trend amongst first responders. I was seeing stories shared of issues surrounding the mental health of dispatchers, officers, medics and firefighters struggling with the effects of PTSD, depression, anxiety and even suicide.
The part of me that went into this career to help others, now wanted to help my fellow first responders. Since I have had my own struggles with mental health related to my career, I have tried to keep myself as healthy as possible. Due to my own experiences, I do not like to see other first responders struggling, especially my dispatch compatriots. So, as a lay person, I began to share through Dispatch Monkey, about resources that I have found helpful for me and hoping that they could also possibly help other first responders.
Due to the importance of maintaining my mental health, I am now regularly going for treatment at the OSI clinic near me. I have become involved with a couple of support groups, one of which is a non-official online group with members from my police service and another is through my church. I have also been working with a paramedic from Barrie, ON, who has had the vision of a setting up a network of support groups across the country and put together a focus group of first responders & nurses, to create a working model for her idea. (I will be sharing more on this at a later date…..stay tuned!)
So, what you can likely see by now, is that not only my own mental health, but the mental health of all first responders is important to me. With Dispatch Monkey, I have been trying to strike a good balance of the serious side, with just enough of the humorous side, that can be experienced in this job. My goal for this new blog, is to expand on that and to also share with other first responders, about my own mental health journey. I want to do this, so that they may know that they are not alone. I will continue to share the poster/memes that I create, on Dispatch Monkey’s Facebook page and Twitter account, because that is what started this whole crazy journey. Hopefully, you might find these posts helpful and that you will continue to have a few chuckles, because of my weird and wacky humor along the way.
Thanks for coming along on the journey!