On Monday, October 7, St. Petersburg College’s Health Education Center, in partnership with National University of Health Sciences (NUHS), Barry University, and SPC Human Resources, held their second annual Break the Stigma event.
The event made multiple resources available to the HEC community for their well-being, such as yoga, massage chairs, Chai tea and SPC resources to assist with mental health such as NAMI, EAP, SAP, Suncoast Center, and PEMHS.
A Lunch and Learn presentation coincided with the resources in the community room. Since stigma is most often what prevents individuals from seeking the care and treatment they need to address mental illness, the goal of the presentation was to educate our future health care providers to treat mental illness like any other chronic health disease. Other subjects addressed were compassion, satisfaction, trauma-informed care and PTSD.
Dr. Jessica Keith was the first presenter. She holds a doctorate from Columbia University and, for over ten years, has provided care for veterans with the Department of Veterans Affairs. She currently serves as lead psychologist on the Bay Pines in-patient psychiatry unit.
Dr. Keith’s presentation started with trauma-informed care, since trauma is not uncommon, and most likely, allied health professionals will be working with a patient who has experienced some form of trauma. She suggested universal precautions, since we do not always know who has experienced trauma, which can have an impact on someone physically, cognitively and emotionally. She provided us with a working definition of practicing trauma-informed care and specific strategies. Next, she discussed compassion fatigue and burnout. In a national survey, 54 physicians had at least one symptom of burnout. She ended her presentation with self-care strategies, defining social support and ways to maintain “compassion satisfaction.”
First Responder Burnout
Ken Grimes was the second presenter. He has almost forty years of experience in Emergency Medical Services. Grimes, who has spoken internationally on disaster response, was part of the Command Staff for the Air Medical Branch for multiple hurricanes: Katrina, Dean, Gustav, Ike, Irma, Maria, Florence and Michael.
Grimes shared his story, starting at age 16 as a volunteer firefighter in 1979. He worked his way up to being a flight paramedic for Bayflight for over 10 years. He described so eloquently how he went into this field to help others, but then realized that he was with the people he was caring for at their most horrific time. In time, this can take a toll – suicide rates among first-responders are one of the highest. After returning from his role as lead medical transport during the hurricanes of 2017, he had a moment of realization that he needed help and was willing to seek it. Part of his journey of posttraumatic growth is sharing his story with others, including other first responders, by presenting and publishing his first book, Tin Box Voyeurs, in 2020.