Edmonton paramedic's suicide prompts call for changes
Stressed paramedics need professional help, Alberta Paramedic Association says
The Alberta Paramedic Association is calling for changes in how its members are debriefed after a "critical stress incident."
The call comes after the suicide of Edmonton paramedic, Greg Turner, earlier this week.
Turner was on shift early Monday morning, when he was found by fellow first responders inside the Kildare neighbourhood 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, 34 in the past nine months.
“The services that are available, the critical incident stress debriefing, is an old sort of practice that developed in the 1980s,” said Kendall Verhulst, vice-president of the Alberta Paramedic Association.
Verhulst said he’d like to see more professionals helping paramedics following stressful situations instead of peer-led support groups that are currently in place.
He also said the current set up is actually a barrier for people wanting help.
The news of Turner’s death has hit the close-knit paramedic community hard. Colleagues described him as upbeat and positive with a 16-year record as a paramedic.
Rick Wennerstorm worked with Turner when the two were stationed with Parkland Ambulance. They were hired at the same time in 2003.
“He was an incredible teacher, a mentor,” he said.
“It didn’t matter to me how he died, he’s gone and that’s what struck me the most.”
He recalls running into Turner in hospital hallways after he left Parkland County, the two men’s paths crossing from time to time, often exchanging a hug and catching up.
“It’s hard to think that will never happen again,” Wennerstorm said.
Now, like many of Turner’s colleagues and friends, Wennerstorm is determined to stop the stigma surrounding post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“I had to seek help due to stress, post traumatic stress, there are times you just don’t know what’s happening to you,” he said.
The Alberta Paramedic Association said it intends to fund PTSD and critical stress research with the hopes of devising a better strategy for connecting paramedics and other emergency workers with professionals.