Exhaustion By Another Name...Burnout

Burnout, Compassion Fatigue, and Vicarious Trauma aren't always stand alone issues.

For many First Responders, EMS personnel, and ER personnel as well as Behavior Health Counselors and Crisis Mental Health Therapists, these issues may be co-occurring. It's about how long your shifts are, the various duties you have to perform, and how many shifts a week you're working. Also, how long you've been at your particular gig. As a mental health professional who is also a Crisis Clinician, I'm too aware of the damn mental fog and exhaustion of burnout, and worse, the symptoms of compassion fatigue.

It's easy to get these three areas mixed up, a good reference from Transitional Phases (Australia) lists the symptoms:

It can't be ignored that systems we are a part of also often drive Burnout, Compassion Fatigue, and Vicarious Trauma. Those very same systems that we cannot escape because it's where our jobs are, and we're trying to make a living, so we have to participate in them. But there's also outside the system influences on how we're expected to handle the high stress of our jobs.

For First Responders/EMS/ER/Behavioral Health personnel, we face many of the following:

  • Expectations of western society

  • Expected reactions of First Responders/EMS/ER/Behavioral Health personnel in career, family and/or social cultures

  • Perpetuated, outdated sterotype behaviors regarding competence and flexibility expected of First Responders/EMS/ER/Behavioral Health personnel

  • Corporate, agency or organizational culture and its expectations

  • Lack of funding or development of wellness programs and culture of wellness

  • Lack of support within and from without professional cultures

  • Stigmatization of seeking support and taking time off for well-care for First Responders/EMS/ER/Behavioral Health personnel, sometimes resulting in what is seen or felt as puniative measure by personnel

So many of our First Responders/EMS/ER/Behavioral Health personnel attempting to live with the burden of expectations from within and without the job structures, accepting and then believing that we cannot be burned out, we are not allowed compassion fatigure, and utilize dark humor to cope with Various Trauma/Secondary Trauma. Until we can't any longer.

Many persons may turn to substance use to alleviate the symptoms, some persons may begin to isolate from their friends and family in attempt to control the symptoms. And heartbreakingly, some choose to end their lives.

If you find yourself experiencing any of these symptoms, please reach out for support and care. There are ways to manage being in demanding systems where our jobs are, and it's not a sign of weakness or incompetence to get support. It's about protecting your emotional peace and head space, to be able to participate in other areas of your life.

* * * Social media is not intended to replace therapy with a qualified mental health professional. All posts are for educational purposes only. If you are in need of assistance for mental health services, please check with your PCP, Inclusive Therapists, TherapyDen or Monarch Therapy Directory for the nearest health professional.


You can also find resources HERE.

Suicide Prevention Lifeline


The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We're committed to improving crisis services and advancing suicide prevention by empowering individuals, advancing professional best practices, and building awareness.

Crisis Text Line: text the word START to 741741 for text-based crisis counseling - it's free, confidential, available 24/7

Photo credits:

Photo #1: Photo by Andrew Gaines on Unsplash

Photo #2: Photo by LOGAN WEAVER on Unsplash

Photo #3: Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

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