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Editors' Expressions: Heartbreaking Headlines

"Editors' Expressions" is a recurring feature in which the EMS World editorial staff ruminates on current news, noteworthy events and everyday happenings with relevance to healthcare and EMS delivery. Feel free to react in the comment box below or e-mail editor@emsworld.com.

I spend a lot of time on social media…more time than I am proud to admit. While some of it is certainly professional, much of it is not. I don’t track the time, out of fear of reality, but certainly I peruse Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram and LinkedIn on a "more than daily" basis.

I have found each platform provides a different angle and that there is value to each of them. Facebook and Instagram to check in on family and friends; Twitter for news and a few clinical pearls; LinkedIn to learn the whereabouts of work colleagues and learn from their insights; and TikTok, just for a laugh. The only common thread really is that I use all of them to promote our educational initiatives throughout the year.

What I have noticed on these platforms over the past few months though has me concerned. There is rarely a week that goes by during which I don’t find a Facebook post in my feed about the death of an EMS professional. As soon as I do so, my instinct is to rush back to TikTok, where I find EMS crews doing some of the funniest things one minute at a time.

Back to the Facebook posts. What I see is troubling. Most of these deaths are not from natural causes, though this year we have lost more than 50 EMS professionals to COVID alone. Many of the EMS fatalities are the result of motor vehicle collisions (wear your seatbelts people—both in the front and back of your ambulance), but way too many are by suicide. While we are getting to a place where this horrible trend is being discussed more publicly, I don’t feel we have made the necessary progress. Otherwise there would not be so many throat-sinking posts.

We at EMS World are trying to play a role in addressing this trend with educational sessions throughout the year, both in print and through our digital platform. We also have designed sessions at EMS World Expo such as the “Behavioral Health Workshop for EMS Providers” and “Protecting and Serving your Team: Fatigue, Burnout, PTSD, Wellness."

But so much more is needed. Every agency should be putting a resource toward this—and yes, "resource" means money. We must find a way to address the anxiety, depression, stress and loneliness that brings our colleagues to their untimely demises. What is your agency doing? What could your agency be doing? Please help make this a proactive rather than reactive move. We can’t afford to lose another one of our colleagues.

Joshua D. Hartman, MBA, NRP, is the senior vice president of the Cardiovascular and Public Safety divisions at HMP, the parent company of EMS World.

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