Spotlight: Moriah Meyer, EMT, FRC Coach

The Spotlight series highlights individuals in first responder life who have felt an impact, made an impact, and shared an impact with others. We need to share our stories to know we’re not alone and we can do this… together!

Caroline: It’s Spotlight time again and I’m here with EMT and FRC coach Moriah Meyer. Moriah has been an EMT for six years and she’s been with her husband, a deputy, for four years. They have two dogs and enjoy being outside and traveling.

Today we’re going to talk about the mentality some people have for first responders, that they-signed-up-for-it mentality which diminishes support and sets unrealistic expectations. Our first responders need more support and to know that there’s more strength in seeking that help than in putting on a false face and remaining silent.

Moriah, thank you for joining me.

Moriah: Thanks for having me.

Caroline: Let’s start with what got you into first responder culture. Can you tell us about that?

Moriah: I’ve always grown up wanting to help people. I really got interested in the medical field. Growing up, my dad had a lot of accidents at home and that kind of piqued my interest. I decided to take some EMT courses and I fell in love with it. So, I just kind of kept going with it.

Caroline: Awesome. How did you meet your husband?

Moriah: We actually met each other on the job. He was a deputy and I was an EMT in the same area. So, we worked the majority of our calls together.

Caroline: And you just hit it off.

Moriah: Yes, we just hit off on calls and started talking and before you knew it, we were married.

Caroline: First responders are attracted to first responders a lot of times.

Moriah: Yes.

Caroline: What challenges do you find in your marriage that are unique to first responder life that the public may not understand?

Moriah: Definitely the hours that are worked by first responders. I think that makes it a little more challenging in a relationship, especially in a marriage. Just trying to figure out that time together is important in growing a relationship.

I think also the stressors that first responders go through on the job can be difficult. Bringing that home is difficult because you don’t know what to do with it once you get home. Do you talk about it with your family? Do you not?

So, definitely kind of navigating that mental health piece for us as a couple is challenging – since we both deal with that – and just making time for each other.

Caroline: Yes, there’s a lot of things to navigate in a first responder marriage. Especially where you’re both first responders, people might just assume that you can talk about it because you understand each other. But sometimes it’s a little more challenging. You may not want to talk about it at that time or you have different sides of the job because you work different types of first responder culture. I think that may not be well understood either.

Moriah: Exactly. And I also think first responders are still human, right? So, we still go through our normal human experiences. For example, if my husband comes home from a call, he may not want to tell me about it because he might know it could be difficult for me to hear based on my own personal experiences in life. So sometimes I think people don’t understand that. You have your human experiences and your first responder experiences.

Caroline: Yes, that’s true. So, you’re in Minnesota and are you in a more remote area or are you close to a city?

Moriah: Nope, we’ve always been rural. 

Caroline: So your structure as an EMT is not quite the same as folks living in suburbia or a city area. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Moriah: We just actually recently moved. Prior to us moving, we worked in a very rural area but it was actually a reservation. So we saw that part of life and dealt with things in that setting. Then we moved to where we are now, again very rural. I think small town areas can be hard because you kind of know everybody.

There isn’t any extra support around because you’re so far apart from hospitals, other towns, cities, and stuff like that. It has a challenge in the aspect that the help that we may need will take a lot longer to get here. And, of course, we have a different set of calls than I think the cities have but they’re just kind of unique to each area.

Caroline: That sounds like it could be stressful. How far is the nearest hospital from where you generally work?

Moriah: Right now we’re about an hour and a half from the closest hospital.

Caroline: Wow – from the closest any-level hospital?

Moriah: Yup. We only have clinics around us. We have to travel a good way to get to an actual hospital.

Caroline: That’s quite a distance. A lot can happen in transport there as I’m sure a lot of our other first responders reading this will know.

Moriah: Yes.

Caroline: How have you felt supported or how have you felt a lack of support from the public around you?

Moriah: You know, for the area that we’re in now, I think the public is very supportive of what we do, both myself and my husband.

Caroline: That’s good.

Moriah: People always come up to us and thank us for joining down here because they feel much safer. Things like that are really nice; we picked an area that is really supportive of what we do.

Caroline: Can you speak to the areas that are less supportive?

Moriah: Yes, where we moved from was not a supportive area. A lot of times, things that we would hear is, “You signed up for it.” “You could have done this better.” “You’re terrible at your job.” All sorts of things. People just don’t understand how it works.

Caroline: It’s hard to judge something when you don’t get how it works or understand all the circumstances. With HIPAA regulations, you can’t tell everybody all the circumstances.

What ways would you like to see communities support first responders better?

Moriah: I’d like to see them understand more of the mental aspect of first responders, that it’s more than that’s-what-they-signed-up-for. I don’t think anybody signs up for what first responders truly encounter and are exposed to and all the trauma they carry. No human is supposed to carry as much trauma as first responders end up doing over their career.

So, really I think the communities could be more willing to view them as humans, the same as anyone, and maybe take time to understand what it is that first responders do and how that can affect them.

Caroline: Yes, definitely. Now, you guys moved from one rural community in Minnesota to another, correct?

Moriah: Yes.

Caroline: You were already familiar with that culture and the great distances to a hospital and all of that stuff. And you said you’re in a better spot now than you were before as far as community support.

Moriah: Yes.

Caroline: Are there any particular ways the community supports you aside from just being grateful?

Moriah: In the area that we’re in now, we have board meetings for the town. People come in and hear what it is we’re doing and what we need. So, I think people in this area are very good and trying to understand in what ways we need to be supported just to do our job. That’s one great way [we can get support.]

Caroline: Absolutely, and you didn’t have that in your previous community?

Moriah: No. Not at all. It was you get what you get and don’t complain about it.

Caroline: They’ll complain when they spend their tax dollars on new equipment that’s going to service them better, right?

Moriah: Exactly.

Caroline: Yeah, it’s pretty sad that people don’t understand the necessities, but I’m glad you’re in a much better community. We definitely want to advocate for all those other first responders that are in communities that are not as supportive. That you-signed-up-for-it mentality, that suck-it-up-and-deal-with-it mentality is not healthy. It’s not helping anybody. It’s certainly not going to help the public at all when their first responders are not there to help them anymore.

Moriah: Yes, exactly.

Caroline: So, we do hope to kind of smash that if we can. How do you think we can boost the support of our community on different levels, like in our local level, the state, nationally…. How do you think we can boost the community’s understanding of first responders so that they’ll reach out and support more effectively? 

Moriah: I always think that it’s great when any first responder service gets a little bit more involved in the community however that may look. It could be coffee with a cop or your EMS goes into the schools or shows up at a business. That piece that first responders are humans, that connection is a huge step towards that understanding.

I also think that what FRC brings is kind of eye-opening to people, especially when we can share with non-first responders. It kind of helps them to understand. Right now, mental health is such a huge thing for everyone. We’re getting more counseling; we’re getting more life coaching. It’s okay to get help. If we could spread that it’s-okay-to-get-help to first responders too, I think that would be even more effective.

Caroline: Yes, we keep spreading the word and sharing that it’s not a sign of weakness to get a little help for yourself. I think that would be pivotal.

Talk a little bit about how you got into coaching and how you got involved with FRC.

Moriah: I really was looking for something when we decided to move. I didn’t know what to expect where we were moving. And I knew that I wanted to somehow stay in the first responder field, even if I couldn’t do it on an ambulance.

Mental health for first responders has always been a huge passion of mine, and helping families of first responders has also been a huge passion of mine. I was actually just on Facebook one day and I came across an FRC post. So, I decided to look into it and decided to take the classes.

I absolutely love coaching. I think it’s one of the most rewarding things that I’ve done. 

Caroline: Yes, coaching definitely has a different approach. It’s a different mentality in regards to helping someone overcome whatever obstacles they’re dealing with. Did you have any particular experiences with coaching that was changing for you? 

Moriah: Prior to FRC, I didn’t have any experience with coaching in general. I had experience with a counseling aspect of sorts but I never had gone to a coach.

So, once I started taking the classes and we would sort of coach each other, it was very enlightening. I’ve had coaching done after my classes too. It’s very enlightening and kind of a cool experience to know that you’re coming up with your own goals and how you want to set them. It’s not somebody telling you what to do and how to do it. You really have those answers within yourself.

That somebody can help you figure out where those answers are and bring them to the forefront I think is just amazing.

Caroline: Yes, it definitely is. I think it’s helped a lot of people and I think it’s helped a lot of first responders that don’t want to take the steps to get into therapy or counseling and that sort of thing.

They’re a little bit more open to coaching and they’re finding that it’s helping them make better decisions and choose for themselves instead of being told what to do.

Also for first responders, it’s a different way of looking at things since they’re leadership-based. You’re always told what to do. This is your duty. You do what you’re told by your leadership. In coaching, you get to decide for yourself what to do. So, it’s a different approach and much more effective.

Is there anything else that you want to mention in terms of public support or first responding or coaching?

Moriah: Just that it takes one person to make that decision that they want more for themselves. That it’s okay to reach out; it’s okay to work on yourself and be a better spouse, parent, friend, or just better for yourself in general. It takes more strength to make the decision to talk to someone and see what it can bring, than to hold it in and see what happens down the road.

Caroline: Well, thank you so much for doing this Spotlight. We look forward to seeing what other things you’ll be doing at FRC. You’ve been an FRC coach for a couple of months now and we look forward to working with you more.

Moriah: Thanks for having me.

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