I have always been proud of my family members and friends who work in emergency services. They are the first ones to arrive on the scene of a horrific event, provide support to individuals and protect our communities. These individuals display their strength through assisting others in crisis situations to ensure others feel safe and supported. But what happens when a first responder needs to feel safe and supported after attending a stressful call?
First responders (police officers, paramedics, firefighters) are considered to be at higher risk of suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder than other careers. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness that is caused by an individual being exposed to and/or experienced a traumatic event. Some individuals relive their traumatic experience on a daily basis through triggers (sounds, words, memories) while others experience little impact on a daily basis. Every day, first responders are exposed to high stressors that can impact them long term. At today’s rate, 20-22% of first responders will be diagnosed with PTSD while active or retired.
It was not until February 2016 that the province of Ontario, Canada decided to take action and developed a new PTSD strategy for first responders due to an increased suicide rate of first responders linked to PTSD. This strategy includes creating awareness to first responders, their families and communities while attempting to eliminate the stigma to ensure first responders are supported and have resources available to assist with coping. This strategy includes research grants that support PTSD prevention, information for employers on how to support their first responders and an annual leadership summit to focus on dealing with PTSD. Promoting assistance to our first responders is a step towards ending the stigma.
In 2017, there have been four first responders and four military members who have taken their own life due to PTSD in Canada. Ensuring that our first responders are supported in the way that they support communities will assist with ending the stigma. The following links are some Canadian resources and information for those needing some guidance or support with PTSD.