We all know first responders face dangers, stresses and hardships every day. They do it willingly – even cheerfully – and they don’t ask for thanks or recognition in return.
They exercise courage every single day in responding to the needs of the community.
First responders are good at being tough. They show the courage that it takes to really ‘show up’ in emergency situations. But here’s the thing: it also takes courage to be vulnerable. This doesn’t mean getting all soft, dropping the armour and talking about your feelings all the time (although, that can be good for us in the right time and place). It just means ‘showing up’ a little bit more as a human…in your daily life…with the people that matter.
“I don’t have time for that,” I hear our women and men in uniform say. And yeah, ‘showing up’ for family, in a real and present way, can be hard when you’re showing up in the other, more traditionally ‘heroic’ way, every day. But showing up for family doesn’t have to be all that mushy stuff. Sharing a laugh, goofing around and telling stories are just as important as being emotionally intimate, physically affectionate and talking about difficulties.
Science shows us that these things actually make us stronger. Duty and willpower are amazing, but being part of a tribe is more like a superpower. It’s one of the things that has allowed humans to dominate the planet. Feeling connected to our families, friends and workmates makes us resilient.
The single most consistent feedback we get from first responder families who attend Fortem activities is that they leave feeling inspired to do “more.” More what? Well, that’s where it gets really interesting. Yes, people say that they want to do more Fortem activities, to be more active and get outdoors more often. But they also talk about being inspired to be more connected.
Making time for meaningful interactions with partners and kids. Talking more and sharing more of themselves with friends. Making an effort to connect a little bit more with colleagues. Having the courage to move out of their comfort zone and try new things, especially things that they value but don’t always make space for.
For those who serve – who maybe have a stronger sense of responsibility and duty than the average citizen – the active type of courage we see in emergency situations can become second nature. If you point it out, they brush it off. But it’s the special type of courage, the harder courage, that goes beyond duty to being present and connected with the people who matter, that not only enriches our lives and the lives of those in our tribe, it actually serves as a type of container for stress and a source of strength that makes us more resilient to the hard stuff.
Click play to keep the conversation going with Fortem Senior Clinician, Dom Hilbrink…
To get involved in upcoming Fortem events check our Wellbeing Activities Calendar, you’ll also find mental health resources for first responders and their families in the Fortem Resource Library and via Peak Fortem. Fortem Australia also offers psychology support for eligible first responders and family members. Call 1300 33 95 94 to find out more.