Mona Thompson is the director of EMS services in Kidder County — she’s also the only paramedic on her 62-person squad.
“When there are bad calls you don’t have that backup when you need additional resources,” Thompson said.
Having a small staff and responding to calls where loved ones could be involved is just part of being a rural responder.
“These are our friends and family that we’re dealing with, and when you’re put in a critical situation, and you’re that only higher level of care being able to offer that resource, yeah it can definitely be stressful,” Thompson said.
That trauma can take a mental toll. Thompson says for a long time, the mentality was to tough it out.
“You just gotta deal with it, you just gotta suck it up. This is what you signed up for, and that is not the reality of what this job is,” Thompson said. “We see things that people should never have to see in their lifetimes.”
After first-hand experience responding to a call involving her son’s close friend, Thompson said she realized the real need for mental health services for first responders. She developed a training program on handling trauma and building resilience, giving presentations to about 60 squads statewide.
But she can’t do it alone — she says what’s really needed is funding.
“I really want to be able to secure funding,” Thompson said. “I think that is the key to secure funding, to have qualified trained individuals.”
She’s called on the legislature last session for funding, but didn’t quite get what was needed.
“People are ashamed to seek help, and I would like them to be open and honest about it and know that we’re here for them,” Thompson said.
Thompson says she still plans to speak this upcoming legislative session, and is even considering pursuing a degree in clinical psychology to further the cause.