First responders, families speak out on PTSD
Published Saturday, June 20, 2015 6:20PM ADT
They are on the front lines answering the call when we’re in need, but sometimes it is emergency responders and people who keep us safe that need the help themselves.
A growing number of correctional workers and first responders are battling post-traumatic stress disorder.
“It’s an accumulative effect,” says retired paramedic, Peter MacPherson. “It all adds up and affects people in a different way. What affects me doesn’t necessarily affect my partner or another paramedic.”
MacPherson was a paramedic during the most horrific of circumstances, the crash of Swiss Air Flight 111.
“As paramedics we’re geared to action,” he adds, “we want to get in there and do things to help people. The night of Swiss Air there was nothing to do.”
There is crisis intervention for major events like Swiss Air, but little help for those who deal with the daily strain of tragedies, such as accidents and heartache on a daily basis.
It’s impossible not to think about those things long after the shift ends.
“A lot of the calls unfortunately were people I knew,” explains paramedic Adrian Sweet, “so that I was very close to or I know their families.”
They were left to grieve but Sweet had to move on to the next call.
After years of supressing how he was feeling, everything came tumbling down.
“It literally had me so bad I was not getting any sleep,” he adds. “I had nightmares throughout the night. I’d be driving down the road in the middle of the day having flashbacks then thinking I was going with my emergency lights and sirens on, and actually pulling out into opposing traffics. I was literally going insane”
Sweet admits to turning to drugs and alcohol, anything to escape the painful, haunting thoughts.
“This disease tells you, you’re alone. No one is going to understand you, do not share your problems, shut up.”
But he is not alone, and on Saturday first responder were walking and speaking out about the toll PTSD is having on their lives.
“Last year alone from the recordsTEMA has, there were 27 emergency responders who committed suicide this year, so far it is 15 and that’s a tragedy,” says NDP MLA Dave Wilson. “If they had more support places to turn to, I think it would help, government needs to recognize that.”
Dave Wilson is a former paramedic and now a NDP MLA who has introduced a bill to help ease the burden.
He says he wants immediate coverage for workers diagnosed with PTSD, which would help families as well.
“Giving them that insight that there is something going on and this is what it is, can put words to it instead of being left in the dark about it because they know,” says Kayla Lamrock. “They feel it. They pick up on it all.”
Lamrock knows because she lived through it as a daughter of someone who suffered from PTSD.
“My dad was my hero,” she adds. “He was my ideal. I didn’t want to think of him any other way. I didn’t want to admit he had fault. To me, to see him overcome something like that, makes him even stronger.”
Hero professions can sometimes make people forget, they are human too.
With each step Saturday, organizers hope it brings them closer to getting first responders the help they need after answering the call.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Marie Adsett.