We like to control our environment to create a more pleasurable existence, but when a critical incident occurs it may be beyond your control.

Control is the ability to create change in your world, and therefore bring order to it.

A lack, reduction, or loss of control is commonly reported by people who’ve experienced a critical incident, and it seems this is an important element in the development of trauma.

As first responders, it’s important that we’re able to bring order from chaos, that’s our purpose. Over the years we develop identities as Firefighters, Police Officers, and Paramedics that have the necessary skills and attributes that provide us with the ability to confront and control situations that the public often find difficult to even comprehend. We often walk away from the most challenging incidents knowing that we’ve done a good job don’t we?

Occasionally though, you may anticipate or become aware of some aspect of an incident that is particularly intolerable for you, difficult to confront, and therefore lies beyond your control. We call these ‘subjective criticalities’, and they’re the thing that makes an objective experience so subjectively painful.

If you’re unable to confront something and therefore experience a lack, reduction, or loss of control, then to some extent you become powerless.

Powerless, and unable to make it better.

For first responders, this can be catastrophic, because the foundations of our whole identity are built upon our ability to ‘make it better’ when we arrive on scene.

Little wonder then that it can be so painful.

So if you experience a painful inability to control the outcomes of a critical incident, to the extent that it causes significant distress that doesn’t naturally dissipate in the weeks afterwards, please consider reaching out for support sooner rather than later.

Consider talking with trusted colleagues, your line manager, occupational health or indeed your peer support team if you have one. Timely and effective support can make the world of difference to your health and well-being.

Before I close, I’d like to pay tribute to Sgt Graham Saville, of Nottinghamshire Police, who died earlier today from injuries sustained saving the life of another human being.

It’s often quoted that “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”, I’d argue that laying down one’s life for a stranger is greater.

My thoughts are of Graham, his family, and his friends and colleagues in the Policing family.

Until next time, stay safe out there on the run,


Posted by:Sean McCallum CTIRt CCt

Crisis Intervention & Trauma Consultant