Paramedics help create their own PTSD training in Thunder Bay
Superior North EMS partners with Lakehead University on mental wellness initiative
Thunder Bay Paramedic Rob Moquin says he knew something was wrong last summer when he became irritable with his family and was unable to sleep.
It happened right after he attended a scene in a high profile case in Thunder Bay where a child died. Moquin took time off work and sought professional help to deal with what he'd seen.
"Anytime we're dealing with children it's very difficult to process," Moquin said "Bad things aren't supposed to happen to kids."
Now Moquin is part of an initiative at Superior North Emergency Medical Service (EMS) that's ensuring all paramedics have mental health supports.
"The paramedics approached us and said we want to work with you, we want to develop something here and we want to be part of it," said EMS Chief Norm Gale. "And we said yes, that's a great idea, let's do it together."
Moquin is one of the paramedics who made the pitch to management.
"There are first responders across Ontario and Canada who are taking their lives," Moquin said. "We realized we needed some help out here."
"Certainly the exposure [to trauma] would be higher than almost any other occupation," Vis said. "It's related to police and fire but the paramedics are the people who are providing that one-on-one direct care and so exposure in that way makes them unique."
Classroom instruction led by Vis is teaching the paramedics about the ways that both chronic and acute exposure to trauma impacts their brains, their bodies and their ability to function.
Moquin hopes it removes the stigma around post-traumatic stress disorder and helps paramedics take better care of themselves, and each other.
"Too often we're taught to just respond to calls and just go from call to call without any thought for ourselves," he said.