911 Dispatchers & Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - "Anybody who has ever dispatched will have a call that will always stick with you," says 911 telecommunicator Rosemarie Relic. For her, that call came from a six-year-old boy who'd just witnessed his dad shoot his mom and then himself.
"He was obviously hysterical, he was terrified, he was very confused, there were no other adults around. And something like that, listening to a child, and you desperately want to help them, of course it stays with you," says Relic.
A new study from Northern Illinois University suggests that 911 dispatchers are at risk of developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The study is reportedly the first of its kind and it could bring change to professional standards.
Some 911 call centers have no programs to help employees cope with stress. The Charlotte- Mecklenburg Police Department does. Under it's Employee Assistance Program, counseling is available for problems including alcoholism, mental or emotional illness, marital or family stress, financial or legal problems.
One of the most stressful calls for a dispatcher can be those that involve officers, because they're not only co-workers, they're friends. As we interviewed Relic, an officer she knew called into 911 because a driver had just run over her foot. Relic sent MEDIC to her, as she would for anyone in the same situation, and relaxed when she knew the officer would be OK.
Dispatchers aren't included in debriefings after critical events, but they can ask about what happened to a caller. Relic says that closure is critical and helps her, help you. "The nicer and calmer you are to people, a lot of time the better information you get and the better help that they're gonna get," she says.
Relic, who won Telecommunicator of the Year in 2010, says the dispatchers also rely on each other and their supervisors. Sometimes, even a 10 minute walk can help clear their heads.
What's On TonightFull Schedule
so you think you can dance