Fifteen Canadian First Responders have died by suicide so far this year. That’s on top of the 39 who died by suicide last year.
That’s according to Heroes Are Humans, an organization committed to peer-support, family assistance, and training for public safety and military personnel dealing with Operational Stress and PTSD.
Retired RCMP Sergeant Roger Morrow joined Jon McComb to talk about his own experience dealing with the daily stresses of the job.
Morrow was a member of the RCMP for 33 years, starting his training at 20. Twenty-eight of those years he spent in front-line policing. He says a lot of it seems to be a big black hole in his memory, he thinks because he buried it.
“But certainly there are some things that First Responders see, whether as a police officer or an ambulance attendant, or a firefighter…that literally haunt you throughout your life.”
He says he has a few of those memories, and a couple have stuck with him.
And even decades later he’s woken up in his bed in the middle of night drenched in sweat from nightmares.
LISTEN to his story here (warning: graphic):
“You Are Not Alone” campaign
Lisa Jennings is a paramedic who started the “You Are Not Alone” campaign aimed at First Responders.
Just a year ago Jennings was living in her car, and she says she’s not the only First Responder who’s been in that position, partly because she hasn’t had appropriate support from Worksafe BC, and there is no government compensation besides income assistance.
“I have no income, no benefits, no sick time…so you end up living on income assistance.”
Don’t call me a hero
Calling them heroes is often the last thing they want to be called because it increases the pressure.
“I don’t a First Responder, at all, who ever wants to be called a hero.We’re doing our job, the job we chose or chose us. A hero to me is a civilian who jumps into icy cold water to save someone. That’s a hero. “
BC has yet to provide compensation for First Responders suffering PTSD
She says her PTSD was triggered by an assault while on the job.
“Now I have the 24-hour replay…the night terrors, hyper-vigilance, isolation, depression, all of those things.”
Many provinces have passed compensation legislation for First Responders. Now a committee has been set up to study this in BC. In the meantime, they have to go through Worksafe BC.
In response to the difficulty she’s had with Worksafe BC, including having to go for a 10th psychiatric analysis, Jennings set up a website called You Are Not Alone, which is currently under construction.