Paramedics calling for increased support for first responders with PTSD
Published Thursday, March 10, 2016 7:58PM AST
Three different paramedics with three different stories all agree that more needs to be done to help first responders living with post-traumatic stress disorder.
They all say they do the work because they want to help people, but they want people to know sometimes, they need help too.
Troy Harnish was a flight medic in Nunavut. After a lifetime in the field, he began to struggle.
“It's kind of the dirty little secret that nobody wants to talk about,” said Harnish. “Some very challenging mission profiles and a lot of children lost under my care.”
Todd Sisk was a paramedic in New Brunswick.
“The last summer I had a series of four calls close together that I guess I just wasn't able to cope with,” said Sisk.
Sean Conohan also took a call that was just too much after 17 years as a paramedic in Nova Scotia.
“Broke down, started crying, which is totally unlike me,” said Conohan.
Their experiences in the field are different, but their experiences after being diagnosed with PTSD are similar.
“I asked for help from my employer and it just wasn't there,” said Sisk.
Conohan says his employment was terminated shortly after he asked for help.
“The request for help was just put aside, that's what I believe,” said Conohan.
In October 2014, former paramedic and Nova Scotia NDP MLA Dave Wilson introduced a private member's bill to help first responders living with PTSD. Wilson says PTSD should be presumed to be a workplace injury and compensated accordingly by the Workers' Compensation Board.
“Currently the policy states that if someone's diagnosed with PTSD it has to come from a single event, and it has to be within a year of that event, but unfortunately we know now with PTSD that it's the accumulative exposure,” said Wilson.
Sisk has filed a human rights complaint hoping to create change for others.
“Their discrimination has to stop,” said Sisk. “Their policies need to change, and take into account that this is a real thing.”
First responders agree change is happening, and conversation is good. But they say they still believe society is uncomfortable when the people who save them need saving.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kayla Hounsell.