Out in the Open

Emergency dispatcher tried to 'brush off' her PTSD, until she couldn't

‘I went into my own crisis,’ said Jessica Patoine after an emergency call.

‘I went into my own crisis,’ said Jessica Patoine after an emergency call

Jessica Patoine is an emergency dispatcher at Emergency Health Services in Halifax. (Submitted by Jessica Patoine)

This story was originally published on November 2, 2018

Jessica Patoine never thought that one day, her job would nearly take her life.

If you call Emergency Health Services in Halifax during a moment of crisis, the voice of an emergency dispatcher like Patoine is typically the first you'll hear on the other end. Over time, constantly trying to help people cope with their emergency situations began wearing on her.

One day, nearing the end of a shift, Patoine received a call from someone reporting an attempted suicide. She directed the caller to try resuscitating the patient, but it was too late.

That's when Patoine hit her breaking point.

"I went into my own crisis," she told Out in the Open host Piya Chattopadhyay. "I hung up the phone, hung up my headset ― I went home. I don't remember much after that. I just remember waking up in the hospital, and being told that I attempted suicide myself."

'Brushing off' PTSD​

Prior to that, Patoine was diagnosed with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but tried to work through it.

"You feel invincible, you brush it off, and you don't think it could ever happen to you," Patoine said.

But being hospitalized following her suicide attempt led Patoine to seek help. She was admitted into a day treatment program for six weeks, and credits group therapy as a big part of her recovery.

Jessica Patoine lives in Halifax with her husband Chris Eld. (Submitted by Jessica Patoine)

"You learn from other people's experiences that it doesn't matter what someone has gone through ― trauma is relative. The core emotions are all the same when you break it down."

Now, Patoine is back at work. She's come to terms with accepting that her job is about helping people through their emergencies, and that those emergencies aren't her own.

"I can help other people, do everything else for others, but when it came to dealing with my own stuff, it was the most difficult thing I've ever done. But it made me realize that I'm stronger than I could have ever imagined."

If you're experiencing emotional distress and want to talk, The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention has a list of local crisis centres that can be viewed here.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 9-1-1 or the number for emergency services in your community."

This story appears on the Out in the Open episode "Crisis Reactors".


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