The Current

Growing PTSD crisis among Canada's first responders

First responders are facing an emergency of their own. They're suffering a quiet epidemic of PTSD. We gather a panel of first responders living with PTSD to share their stories.
Police, paramedics, firefighters are facing an emergency of their own. They're suffering a quiet epidemic of PTSD. Already to date in 2015, 4 first responders have died by suicide. (Fryderyk Supinski, Flickr)

*** Please note this interview contains graphic and disturbing details. ***

Listen to Annette Hunter - a first responder for 25 years - recount the disturbing call that triggered her PTSD:

(Runs 1:06)

Annette Hunter worked as a first responder with York Region for 25 years. Here, she describes the traumatic call that triggered her Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Warning: this contains graphic and disturbing material.

They're the women and men who speed their way towards emergencies, instead of away from them... in police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances. But many of our first responders are quietly living through an emergency of their own.

The numbers here are staggering: last year in Canada 27 first responders died in suicides. Only one month into 2015, four more have taken their own lives. Those in the know say our first responders are experiencing an epidemic of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD.

Today, we hear from first responders who know it all too well.

These are important stories... but they're not easy to listen to. The stories we're about to hear are not appropriate for younger listeners. And some of what we're going to hear will be highly disturbing. But, this is the reality of what these workers face, every day on the job.

Ralph Wolf Thistle was a police officer with the Toronto Police Department for over three decades.​

Annette Hunter was a paramedic for 25 years with York Region.​

Sean Laverty has been a fire-fighter with the Hamilton Fire Department for the last thirty years.

We requested a statement from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board -- or WSIB -- regarding the timeframe for PTSD claims, and they sent us this:

"The WSIB is committed to making decisions in Traumatic Mental Stress - or TMS - claims in a timely and compassionate manner.

The adjudication of TMS claims is complex. The WSIB has in place multi-disciplinary teams of case managers and nurse consultants dedicated to managing TMS claims. In addition, we regularly utilize the Psychological Trauma Programs located at the London Health Sciences Centre and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto to assist in the assessment and treatment of workers.

As a result of these specialized teams, more people with TMS are getting the assistance they need, faster. For currently available statistics, the average time to reach a decision for allowed lost time claims is approximately 30 days."

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This segment was produced by The Current's Lara O'Brien.

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