By Jenn Watt
April 19, 2016
Mental trauma is just as bad as physical injury. It can cause lifelong pain, destruction of relationships, change in mood and, in the worst cases, can lead to self-harm.
Those who work in some of the most dangerous physical jobs also encounter many of the most mentally jarring situations as well.
As this week’s article by Angelica Ingram illustrates, first responders in our county are not exempt from post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues that can accompany seeing some of the most gruesome, frightening and heart-wrenching scenes in their daily jobs.
Even for those who do not suffer PTSD, the sights, smells and sounds from moments of great stress stay with them for a lifetime. How could they not?
In a county as tight-knit as Haliburton, emergency situations can hit even harder when paramedics, firefighters and police officers arrive at an accident or medical call to find a friend’s life is on the line.
PTSD is far more likely to occur in first responders than in the rest of the Canadian population.
According to The Tema Conter Memorial Trust, a national support organization for emergency workers, about eight per cent of Canadians are dealing with PTSD. In the emergency services field, that rate is between 16 and 24 per cent.
Last week, the provincial legislature unanimously passed new rules that would eliminate the need for first responders to prove their PTSD came from the workplace in order to access WSIB.
The change has been applauded by many who say it’s been a long time coming and that WSIB often made it hard for emergency workers to get compensation for their trauma-induced mental health issues.
As with many other mental-health related issues, society has been tardy in addressing these real medical problems that have the ability to tear lives apart.
But things are changing.
This legislation has already done much for moving the conversation forward on mental health and acknowledging that the human mind is not built to shut out traumatic events – even among the most heroic of us.
As the county’s director of paramedic services Craig Jones told the Echo this week, having PTSD is “no different than having a broken bone” in the sense that it’s a medical issue and should be treated as such.
As a society, we still haven’t gotten to the place of accepting that truth unconditionally and it showed in our legislation.
But attitudes are shifting and with them our laws. Let this be a harbinger of things to come for those struggling with PTSD.