For the last week, I’ve been stressing over my first official blog post. The post is about a man named James. I triple checked punctuation, looked up words I already knew, second guessed the entire premise of my story. I uploaded it, scheduled it to auto-post, and sat back, still nervous.
But something has been happening this week, and although it’s happened before, this time seemed different. Paramedics are speaking up about (another) series of suicides and raising awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder. Some view PTSD as a weakness, suggesting it can be rooted out by addressing a perceived mismatch between personality and the realities of field medicine. They simplify the disease of PTSD and reduce those who suffer from it to weak-minded people who chose a profession incongruent with their mental fabric. Those people are simply wrong.
And so, heart breaking and mind racing, I decided to write about it. Rather than share my opinions on the topic (as I have done before), I decided to do more than just write. I decided that the complexity of addressing Canada’s woeful record of first responder suicides required a complex synopsis. And so I put on my Journalist hat and, for the first time, really, reported the story you are about to read.
This new story was so timely, in fact, that it was picked up by EMSworld.com, publisher of EMS Magazine and host of EMS Expo. Given that they have over 500,000 page views a month, and given that I want this story to be read by as many people as possible, I was elated. There are technicalities when you publish your work elsewhere, so rather than post my article directly below, I’ll ask you to click the link to read my reported story.
While there has been much attention paid to PTSD in Canada recently, the same cannot be said in the United States. American paramedics and emergency medical technicians have it WAY WORSE than Canadian ones. They do not have organized labour or national representation the way we do, and the challenges to access mental healthcare are beyond complex. First responder PTSD and suicide is not a Canadian or North American problem: it a global matter and Canada has an opportunity to lead the way in protecting those who put themselves in harms way.
I’m grateful for the chance to share my story with those south of the border, and around the world.
The story about James will have to wait until next Sunday, giving me more time to second-guess my use of semicolons.
Advocates Demand Legislation to Stem Paramedic Suicides
Bob Baillie barely reacted when he received his dispatch instructions. A paramedic for 13 years, he has responded to nearly every 911 call imaginable. But he sensed something was different as he approached the lobby of the hotel where a woman had been found without vital signs. “I’m sorry you have to see this” Baillie recalls a police officer saying. Upstairs, his colleague lay dead of helium asphyxiation, a carefully planned method of suicide. “The ride back to base was silent” between him and his partner, Baillie says, and he felt a profound sense of being disconnected from reality. Baillie has seen first hand what most paramedics, police officers and fire fighters know only as rumour: first responders kill themselves in alarming numbers….