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First responders plea for national PTSD strategy

(iStock photo)

Second reading of private member's bill about PTSD coming up next month

In 2016, 19 police officers, firefighters and paramedics in BC took their own lives

OTTAWA, ON. (NEWS 1130) – First responders see and deal with life-threatening issues each and every day. They make a difference helping us or family and friends, often running towards danger, than away from it. However, saving a life or at least trying to can take a toll on one’s mental health.

Last year alone, 19 police officers, firefighters and paramedics in BC committed suicide. Late last year reports surfaced about how the fentanyl crisis in the province was adding more strain to an already overburdened paramedic workforce.

“No one signed up to be traumatized,” explains paramedic Natalie Harris. “The people that signed up for these careers signed up to help people.”

Now the federal government is looking to do something about it. MP Todd Doherty for the Cariboo-Prince George region has brought forward a private member’s bill that would create a system to track the disorder, establish guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and management. It would also create educational materials to be used by public health providers. A second reading of the bill is set for February 9th.

While Alberta, Ontario and Manitoba all recognize post-traumatic stress disorder as a workplace injury among first responders, BC still requires individuals applying for benefits to prove their PTSD was caused by their job.

Harris welcomes the potential help for many that suffer from PTSD. She points out there may be a misconception that some first responders aren’t working because they’re lazy, but Harris stresses that’s not true. “These are amazing Canadians who have given their heart and soul and put so much passion into a career that many of them still wish they could be doing.”

Since 2014, 183 Canadian public safety and military personnel have died by suicide.