Thunder Bay

Superior North EMS acting chief pleased with province's PTSD campaign plans

The acting chief of Superior North EMS in Thunder Bay says he is happy to see Ontario take steps to address first responders and their families coping with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

'Don't be afraid to talk about it,' Wayne Gates tells first responders

The acting chief for Superior North EMS, says his service has been working on setting up a peer-support program for PTSD sufferers over the past year. (Mackenzie Greer/Flickr)

The acting chief of Superior North Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in Thunder Bay, Ont. said he is happy to see Ontario take steps to address first responders and their families coping with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Wayne Gates said the move to create an awareness campaign to help people recognize signs of the disorder will be valuable to all involved. He noted the most important facet in dealing with this mental illness is reducing the stigma to allow police officers, firefighters and paramedics feel comfortable talking about their experiences openly with friends, family and co-workers. 

"You went on that bad call. You saw a terrible thing. It's not the old days of 'suck it up' mentality. It's the 'you know what, that had to be a tough call, let's talk about it.' Don't be afraid to talk about it," Gates said. 

​The acting chief told CBC News that Superior North EMS has been working on setting up a peer-support program for PTSD sufferers over the past year. 

The campaign launched by the provincial government will include both preventative and legislative measures along with grants to better understand triggers and optimal prevention techniques to treat an illness referred to as serious and debilitating.

Labour Minister Kevin Flynn said Ontario will be a leader in dealing with PTSD with publicly-funded advertisements aimed at reducing the stigma associated with the mental health condition. He noted the fear of being perceived as weak or damaged by seeking help leaves many people suffering in silence.

The province will also be looking at how first responders will be covered for PTSD treatment, said Flynn.

With files from The Canadian Press

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