Halifax firefighters suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and their families, have a place to turn for help when the emotional toll they face on the job everyday becomes too much.
'Welcome to the world of insanity. When everybody else is running out, we're running in.' - Wendell MacNeil, firefighter of 27 years
In the past six years, 900 firefighters and their family members have sought help with the Halifax Regional Firefighters and Family Assistance Program. It’s estimated as many as 30 per cent of those — 300 firefighters — suffer from PTSD.
CBC recently profiled the lack of post-traumatic stress support for RCMP members. Firefighters also routinely face high-stress situations, from medical calls to car accidents.
When firefighter Wendell MacNeil first started the job 27 years ago, he knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
“The first day on the job when we were greeted by the training officer was basically ‘Welcome to the world of insanity. When everybody else is running out, we're running in,’” he said.
After nearly 30 years working as a firefighter, MacNeil said he loves his job but the stress has taken its toll. He is one of many firefighters who suffer from PTSD.
Paul Mackenzie, coordinator of the firefighter assistance program, said there's been a huge culture change over the years.
“Right from the get-go, before they graduate, they get two days with us. We speak to some the things you may be exposed to, here are some of the resources available to you -- not only for you but for also your family,” he said.
The assistance program has trained volunteers available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help those who spend their days helping others.
Janice Landry is a firefighter’s daughter. She has just written a new book called The Sixty Second Story, which looks at the mental health of firefighters.
She said the book is a tribute to all firefighters, but especially her father.
Landry said he never talked about what he saw on the job.
“Back in the day it was basically, ‘Get back out there and do your job,’ and that’s really nobody's fault — and I’m not saying that it was right. It’s just the way it was,” she said .