Progress for Paramedics: Increasing PTSD support for First Responders

May 29 – June 4 is Paramedics Week and SEIU Healthcare has a lot to celebrate this year. Front-line SEIU Healthcare paramedics Joe Emilio, Brian MacDonald and Doug McGirr were on hand at Queen’s Park on February 18th, 2016 to support the introduction of new provincial legislation which will acknowledge that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosed in first responders is work-related, leading to faster access to WSIB benefits and treatment.

First responders, including paramedics, are twice as likely as the general public to suffer from PTSD due to the nature of their work. Adding to the challenge, there continues to be a great deal of stigma associated with the condition. It is all too common to have paramedics and other first responders suffering in silence by hiding their illness.

Putting themselves at the centre of traumatic events everyday, paramedics provide an invaluable service to their communities. By formally recognizing PTSD as a work-related illness, the government is helping to lift this illness out of the shadows so that Ontario’s first responders can get the help they need and deserve.

SEIU Healthcare member, Chris Stolte, has been a paramedic for 24 years and has made it his mission to raise awareness of PTSD for the sake of his colleagues. Chris has witnessed the devastating effects that traumatic events can have on paramedics and first responders, including the numerous ways the illness can manifest itself.

Chris described the PTSD challenges facing first responders this way, “Everyone in life carries around a bucket, and every time we experience different types of stressors, a bit of water gets added to the bucket. In this job eventually your bucket is going to overflow if left unchecked. So we need to try to mitigate the damage, and provide resources and education before that happens.”

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