You’ve likely seen the compelling artwork, created by Artist and Firefighter Paramedic (FF/P) Daniel Sundahl, popping up in your Facebook newsfeed, Instagram, and relevant articles over the last year or more. Sundahl’s images convey a strong visual message highlighting the individual conflicts faced by emergency responders as they serve the needs of humanity. When the chaos of a bloody scene has settled or when the fire has been extinguished, responders are often left to wrestle with their own thoughts and feelings in
private moments of deep reflection. Every minute of every day, emergency responders around the world respond to and mitigate emergency situations based in the intense reality of raw mortality.
In his new book, Portraits of an Emergency, FF/P Daniel Sundahl has found an artistic way of depicting these powerful moments of reflection allowing other responders to connect and communicate their mental and emotion challenges, as well as providing outsiders the opportunity to begin to understand the inner struggle of their public servants.
While making your way through the book, you immediately begin to feel the soul of the artist, and if you’re a responder, you suddenly find yourself identifying with the images and their accompanying stories. The artistic renderings of photos taken by Sundahl shine a bright ghostly light onto the moment’s that create Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in emergency responders, putting this important issue on Front Street.
In the last year or two, there has been a meaningful conversation within the fire service regarding suicide and the propensity and effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in first responders. Daniel Sundahl puts himself out on the forefront of creating PTSD awareness industry-wide by capturing his own struggles and confidently breaking macho stereotypes. Portraits of an Emergency is a powerful walk through Sundahl’s own difficult realization of PTSD and his answer for how to face it and heal.
By sharing his artwork with the emergency service community, Sundahl is giving himself an outlet that helps him reconcile his internal conflicts with PTSD while providing thought-provoking images for emergency responders to reflect on their own mental and emotional well-being.
Portraits of an Emergency is a must have for every firehouse dayroom, EMS station break room, 911 dispatch center restroom, or police station ready room. Aside from raising the level of awareness concerning PTSD among first responders, the book provides emergency service leaders, company officers, and chiefs a casual, edgy, ice-breaker to approaching the topic of PTSD with their workforce.
We all know firefighters, and first responders don’t enjoy discussing their possible weaknesses. PTSD can be a scary and uncertain disorder. Firefighters and emergency workers will often hide their symptoms fearing for their career or harbor the idea of becoming an outcast among their peers for being weak or unstable. It’s imperative for first responders to realize that PTSD isn’t about what’s wrong with them, it’s about what happened to them, Sundahl’s images highlight that sentiment exactly. The photo renderings in Portraits of an Emergency helps to start the conversation and allow Chief’s and leaders to provide avenues for assistance. Part of Sundahl’s purpose for this book, which is a first of it’s kind, is to help prevent firefighter and emergency responder suicides. It’s an important issue in our career field and often addressed passively.
As first responders, we often live our lives wondering if we’ve made enough of an impact or if we’ve made a difference. Firefighter Paramedic Daniel Sundahl doesn’t have this problem. By placing his talent and his personal struggles in the forefront of his new book, Sundahl is providing PTSD awareness with the goal of first responder suicide prevention for the benefit of us all. Daniel Sundahl with DanSun Photo Art and his first book Portraits of an Emergency is leaving his mark on the fire and emergency services. Sundahl’s photo art will likely become a powerfully poignant staple of the emergency service industry worldwide.
Order your station a copy of Portraits of an Emergency (Here)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can occur after someone experiences a traumatic event that caused intense fear, helplessness, or horror. PTSD can result from personally experienced traumas (e.g., rape, war, natural disasters, abuse, serious accidents, and captivity) or from the witnessing or learning of a violent or tragic event.
- While it is common to experience a brief state of anxiety or depression after such occurrences, people with PTSD continually re-experience the traumatic event; avoid individuals, thoughts, or situations associated with the event; and have symptoms of excessive emotions.
- People with this disorder have these symptoms for longer than one month and cannot function as well as they did before the traumatic event.
- PTSD symptoms usually appear within three months of the traumatic experience; however, they sometimes occur months or even years later.
Although the symptoms for individuals with PTSD can vary considerably, they generally fall into three categories:
– Individuals with PTSD often experience recurrent and intrusive recollections of and/or nightmares about the stressful event. Some may experience flashbacks, hallucinations, or other vivid feelings of the event happening again. Others experience great psychological or physiological distress when certain things (objects, situations, etc.) remind them of the event.
– Many with PTSD will persistently avoid things that remind them of the traumatic event. This can result in avoiding everything from thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the incident to activities, places, or people that cause them to recall the event. In others there may be a general lack of responsiveness signaled by an inability to recall aspects of the trauma, a decreased interest in formerly important activities, a feeling of detachment from others, a limited range of emotion, and/or feelings of hopelessness about the future.
– Symptoms in this area may include difficulty falling or staying asleep, irritability or outbursts of anger, difficulty concentrating, becoming very alert or watchful, and/or jumpiness or being easily startled.
Risk Factors for Firefighters
A few studies have also looked at what factors might put firefighters at greater risk for the development of PTSD. A number of risk factors for PTSD among firefighters have been identified. These include:
- Being previously in treatment for another disorder.
- Starting work as a firefighter at a younger age.
- Being unmarried
- Holding a supervisory rank in the fire service.
- Proximity to death during a traumatic event.
- Experiencing feelings of fear and horror during a traumatic event.
- Experiencing another stressful event (for example, loss of a loved one) after a traumatic event.
- Holding negative beliefs about oneself (for example, feeling as though you are inadequate or weak).
- Feeling as though you have little control over your life.
Protective Factors for Firefighters
- Even though firefighters might be at high risk for stress as a result of their jobs, it is important to point out that most firefighters will not develop PTSD. In fact, several factors have been identified that may reduce the likelihood of developing PTSD among firefighters after the experience of multiple traumatic events.
- One of the most important protective factors found was having social support available either at home or through work.
- In addition, it has also been found that having effective coping strategies available may lessen the impact of experiencing multiple traumatic events.
- This is not surprising in that, among people in general, the availability of social support and effective coping strategies have consistently been found to reduce the risk for developing PTSD following a traumatic event.
For Information on Treatment Please visit FireStrong.org
To learn what Fire Strong is all about check out their introduction here