Ontario may move to address post-traumatic stress disorder among first responders, taking the burden of proof off the ill worker and putting the onus on the employer.

The province's NDP labour critic, Cheri DiNovo, has introduced three bills on the matter since 2010, and if the latest moves through the legislature this winter, Ontario will join Alberta and Manitoba as the provinces that recognize PTSD as a workplace illness for firefighters, police officers and paramedics.

Thirty-eight first responders killed themselves last year, according to statistics published by the Tema Conter Memorial Trust.

An estimated 10 per cent of Canadians struggle with depression, flashbacks and panic attacks as a result of PTSD, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association.

What should employers, government and society at large do for people with PTSD?

Readers let us know in the latest CBC Forum — a live, hosted discussion about topics of national interest.

(Please note that usernames are not necessarily the names of commenters. Some comments have been altered to correct spelling and to conform to CBC style. Click on the username to see the complete comment in the blog format.)

Most commenters stressed that the problem is real, despite doubters, and needs to be dealt with.

"How would you react to being shot at, the windshield taken out of your cruiser as you stood behind the open door? How would you react arriving to find a two-year-old crushed under the wheels of his father's tractor, and you are the only one there with the father and mother for 15 minutes? Yes, PTSD is very real. I know it." — TedNes

"First responders often help people on the worst day of their lives, so the least we can do is help them when they are in need." — Kristina Beckmann

A common sentiment was that education and understanding were key solutions.

"I think it's important for anyone who interacts with first responders to educate themselves. I also think that more resources need to be made available to first responders, and that organizations should have better debriefing methods in practice. One of my husband's first calls as a paramedic was some extreme trauma involving an axe and a face. All other responders including the coast guard had debriefing after and my husband and his crew were left to just deal with it on their own. This is unacceptable." — advocateforchange

​Readers pitched a variety of different countermeasures.

"I think we should take this issue very seriously and limit the possible exposure to these traumatic situations of first responders. In order to do this, the length of service should be limited to a maximum of, say, 10 years, then these people should move on to other careers." — PJC

"As the daughter of a soldier who served for 35 years and did 10 tours with the UN and NATO, I think it is absolutely necessary to help the families cope. Focus has been … on my father, and rightfully so, but as a family unit we lacked the tools to help him, which resulted in my parents' divorcing after 30 years of marriage." — Karen 

"Get as many new psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychotherapists as we can out there, because we don't have nearly enough mental-health professionals out there to help everyone who needs help." — Robert Slaven

​You can read the full discussion below.


Can't see the forum? Click here

With files from The Canadian Press