In the past, I assumed that to be a paramedic was to be superhuman.
But as I’ve become more aware of the power of trauma on the human psyche, I know that isn’t the case.
It’s just not possible to remain unaffected by trauma. And a new documentary, After The Sirens, makes that abundantly clear.
Unaddressed trauma is the cause of PTSD.
PTSD often shows its face as addiction and we are really good at judging addicts. We label ourselves authorities in regard to what warrants compassion and kindness, instead of trying to understand why a person turned to drugs or alcohol in the first place.
I’ve learned over the years that no matter how hard we try, judgement and turning the other cheek doesn’t dissolve a person’s pain.
Only understanding can help a person recover.
Through courageous first-person accounts, After The Sirens shines a light on what happens to our first responders when they don’t receive the support they need. Paramedics experience extensive amounts of on-the-job trauma and because of that, a shocking number of them are experiencing PTSD, turning to drugs and alcohol to quell the symptoms, and in many cases ending their lives.
This documentary provides an opportunity for us to understand the repercussions trauma has on the human psyche. It gives a face to the pain someone feels when they don’t feel safe enough to come forward with career-created PTSD.
Because let’s get clear on this: it’s not career-related, it’s career-created.
We need to hear these stories so we can work on releasing the unproductive beliefs we hold about what it is to suffer from mental health issues and addiction.
We need to stop denying those who are suffering the compassion, kindness and support they need to recover.
It’s not that I don’t have hope and I don’t see hope, it’s that I just wish there was more of it. – Paramedic Clive Derbyshire
Hope is born of being understood and supported, and the process of validating a person’s pain can help cultivate the hope they need to recover.
We support paramedics by validating their PTSD on both a government and social level.
We need to start listening to their stories. The statistics make it a necessity: In 2016, 56 per 100,000 paramedics died of suicide. And that number doesn’t include the deaths that weren’t reported by family as being paramedics.
Educating Ourselves = Understanding = Social Change. So let’s get educated and make change happen by watching this documentary.
Show your support by watching the World Broadcast Premiere of After The Sirens on Sunday, April 8th, 2018 at 9:00 pm (9:30 NT) on CBC DOCS POV
You can also watch it online at cbc.ca/cbcdocspov/ on Friday, April 6 from 5:00 pm ET
RESOURCES FOR PARAMEDICS SUFFERING FROM PTSD:
Suggested resources for anyone who thinks they may be suffering from PTSD*
Steps to take after watching After The Sirens**
Contact the Canadian Senate and press them to move Bill C-211 (PTSD BILL) forward as it is currently halted:
Bill C-211: https://openparliament.
Senate of Canada website: https://sencanada.ca/
Talk about it:
You can help fight the stigma surrounding PTSD by talking openly about mental health and addiction and paying attention to the language people are using in your community. If you hear someone using derogatory or negative language, communicate to them that what they’re saying could be extremely damaging to a person who is suffering. Even if this helps one person adjust their attitude, it’s worth the effort.
*If you know of any resources that could be added to this list, please email me at email@example.com
**Thank-you to Natalie Harris, one of the paramedics profiled in the film, and director/producer Kevin Eastwood of After The Sirens for the aforementioned information. And thank you to the paramedics who shared their stories: Your courage is inspiring. I see you and I am with you.