Thoughts on Helping 5: “MTV” – Myself, the Team, the Victim

MountainSomething, perhaps my recent vacation experience (see last post), got me thinking about being in the mountains of northern California over 25 years ago. Back then I was attending the U.S Navy Cold Weather Medicine Course given at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center. It wasn’t all fun and games, but it was interesting and very different for a Florida boy like me. Overall, I enjoyed it.

Honestly, I can’t remember too much about the experience, and even less of the actual medical/survival information. But one thing I do remember is learning about a general approach to rescue situations expressed in the easy-to-remember acronym “MTV” – Myself, the Team, the Victim. That little nugget of wisdom has stuck with me all these years.

The basic idea is that, when a rescue becomes necessary, say a buddy drops through surface ice into a freezing lake, you don’t want to just charge into action potentially placing yourself or others at risk. Stop. Think for a second. “Myself” – Am I secure? “The Team” – Are the other members of my team secure? What actions are necessary to assure their, and my, security? After taking steps to assure the safety of the rescuers, then go after “the Victim.” – MTV

I think that learning goes beyond the mountains and wilderness. We’ve all seen family caregivers harm their own health through well-meaning devotion to a sick relative. Job-related stress leading to burnout, depression and even a heart attack or stroke is not uncommon among physicians and other intensely committed healthcare providers. Most people in healthcare (and maybe in ministry too) have at least a few stories of helping professionals who helped themselves into an illness from a lack of attention to their own physical, emotional and spiritual needs.

If you’re in a helping profession, or serving as a caregiver, make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Like the airplane flight attendant says, “In the event of an emergency, place your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others.” After yourself, consider your personal “team” – which might be your family and/or your staff. How are they doing? Are you supporting their health and wellbeing or placing it at risk? Get your life in balance. Support your family. Now you’re ready to help others.

Other posts in this series:
Thoughts on Helping 1: What Do People Need?
Thoughts on Helping 2: Who Wants To Be Well?

Thoughts on Helping 3:  Like Helps Like
Thoughts on Helping 4: Gods Grace