"Colleagues asked: why didn't you come to me?" Image by: Video by: This is My Brave
10 October 2023

James’ story: Helpers need help too

Critical Care Paramedic
James Boomhower
3 minutes read time

In 2018, James got on the This is My Brave stage to share his mental health story as a healthcare provider. Today, he shares the importance of helpers seeking support with us.

We are taught as healthcare providers to be helpers. We are taught that we are to be the hero. But all healthcare providers experience little bits of trauma every day. And then there are periods with a lot of trauma. And this accumulation of a lot of little bits compound and roll and turn into these things that we either run from or ignore completely. It might take us years, or it may take an extreme crisis for us to realize that things need to change.

When I shared my story on the stage, the overwhelming response from my colleagues was, “Why didn’t you come to me? I had no idea you were experiencing so much pain.”

But it’s almost fetishized in our industry, the broken human who still comes to work and does the job. It is thought of as blasphemy to take a mental health day. It can be seen as weak. You’re expected to come to work. It's something that our profession does very poorly. And we put a lot of weight on the men in our community to say, “Don’t be weak. Be a man. Man up. Do your job.”

There’s this perception that 99% of the time we have to give, give, give and never take, because taking is for the weak, and taking is for the people that we serve. But the most important message about mental health is that it’s okay to not be okay. It took myself and the help of a lot of mental health professionals a lot of time to finally be able to say, “That’s not how it works.” Self-care isn’t selfish. Self-compassion is helping you to be a better healthcare provider.

The trauma from our jobs happened to us. That trauma comes in a million different shapes and sizes, depending on your lived experiences, who you are, and what you believe. And it happened to you. You're not weak. You're not broken because you've been affected by this trauma. It is literally something that happened to you.

It is so important that we get the message out that we can struggle and that it is okay to need help. And it is okay to need support. Helpers think they cannot have these things. And it's so important for all of us to recognize that we can have support and that we can need help for all of the things that we see and do day in and day out. As a community, we need to approach it how we approach the job. As a team, as a unit. Together.