Edmonton

Edmonton first responders mourn sudden death of paramedic

'It's almost ironic that paramedics who respond to calls for help every day don't get the help that they need,' says executive director of the Alberta Paramedic Association.

Suicide of veteran EMT appears to be part of a troubling national trend

Paramedic Greg Turner's death appears to be part of a troubling national trend. At least four Canadian paramedics have committed suicide this month alone. (Facebook)

They are called first responders and they deal, daily, with life and death and the often razor thin line between the two.

Today, they’re mourning one of their own, an Edmonton paramedic who killed himself on the job this week.

Greg Turner was a veteran in the industry. Colleagues described him as upbeat and positive.

His sudden death comes as a huge shock to their tight-knit community. It’s also raising serious questions about the stresses they face on the job and resources available to help them,

Turner was on shift early Monday morning, when he was found by fellow first responders inside the Kildare neighborhood dispatch station. Colleagues were unable to resuscitate him.

His suicide appears to be part of a troubling national trend. At least four Canadian paramedics have committed suicide this month alone.

Troubling trend

“We see the worst of the worst,” said Andre Devore, executive director of the Alberta Paramedic Association. “And it's almost ironic that paramedics who respond to calls for help every day don't get the help that they need.

“These are the people who are coming into people’s homes and helping them with their worst days. And I think they deserve the help themselves, when they need it.”

Turner’s death is the latest in a string of suicides among Canadian paramedics. Thirty-four have killed themselves in the past nine months alone, according to the Tema Conter Memorial Trust.

The organization, named for an Ontario homicide victim, began in 2001 as a charity offering scholarships to paramedic students. Since then, it has become a centre for research, education and training, and also a peer and psychological support resource for paramedics, firefighters and police officers..

Some first responders suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They have flashbacks and nightmares about the work they do.

Last summer, volunteers with the trust and several speakers and celebrities launched a national PTSD-awareness tour and spoke to thousands of people across Canada.

The Alberta Paramedic Association has now started a support fund for Greg Turner's family.

And the Alberta College of Paramedics has put out a statement commending his 16-year record as a paramedic. They say he earned the "utmost respect" from his colleagues.

Those same colleagues are now dealing with this latest death among their ranks.

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