Nfld. & Labrador

'You bring it home with you': First responders ride to end PTSD stigma

St. John's paramedic Krista Peddle is organizing a motorcycle ride to remember a fallen comrade and raise awareness about post traumatic stress disorder.

Paramedic wants to put a stop to an unhealthy, 'suck it up' mentality

Paramedic Krista Peddle is organizing the First Responder's Memorial Run to honour a fallen friend and raise awareness about PTSD. (Submitted)

The St. John's paramedic who's organizing a fundraiser to fight post traumatic stress disorder says she first thought of the idea after a colleague committed suicide. But it was the death of two more colleagues — one by illness, the other in a motor vehicle accident —  that prompted her to take action. 

"Within nine months, we had three paramedics with Eastern Health die," Krista Peddle told the St. John's Morning Show.

"I saw that it really affected a lot of people, [and for some] it could be the straw that broke the camel's back." 

Paramedic took his own life

And it's no fluke that Sunday's First Responders Memorial Motorcycle Run begins at Cape Spear. That's where rescue crews from St. John's had to perform the grisly task of retrieving Chris Pearce's body from the frigid waters.

The 49-year-old paramedic took his own life on August 6, 2015. 

"I was sideswiped," said Peddle, a six-year veteran. She worked with Pearce from the time she was hired as a paramedic in 2010.

"I knew Chris to be a very quiet but happy guy. I didn't see it coming."

Peddle and Pearce shared a love of motorcycles, so a fundraising ride promoting mental health awareness among first responders seemed a natural fit. 

A 'suck it up' mentality

"We don't have confirmation that Chris was diagnosed with PTSD," Peddle said. "And I don't want to make assumptions that he was. But he was fighting his own demons and mental illness."

"We're in a workforce where the 'suck it up' mentality was always there," Peddle said. "'You got into this job, you knew what you were getting into. Get over it.'"

Tema Conter Memorial Trust

Proceeds will be donated to the Tema Conter Memorial Trust, an Ontario-based charity that supports first responders dealing with mental health issues.

Tema Conter was a young woman who was brutally raped and murdered in 1988. The trust was started by one of the paramedics who tended the scene. Peddle says right now it's the best place for first responders to find treatment and support. 

"PTSD is such a forbidden word," she said. "But Tema and a few other corporations are really trying to eliminate that demon. You have to talk about this stuff. You bring it home with you."

Registration for the First Responder's Memorial Run opens 10 a.m. Sunday August 14. The ride begins at noon.