Georgian’s Paramedic students have rallied their support behind two campaigns – #IVEGOTYOURBACK911 and Heroes are Human – both aimed at creating social awareness about the terrible toll Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can take on those working on the front lines of emergencies.
Started this past October by a group of paramedics distraught by the recent spate of first responder suicides – 27 deaths have been reported since April 2014 – #IVEGOTYOURBACK911 asks people to post pictures on social media holding a sign that says #IVEGOTYOURBACK911. It’s a simple concept but the message is powerful. It puts human faces on the struggle, helping remove the stigma of mental illness and encouraging those who are suffering to come forward to get the help they need.
Heroes are Human is the slogan of The Tema Conter Memorial Trust, dedicated to helping first responders deal with job-related traumatic stress through research, education, training and peer support. Last summer the trust hosted a 48-city, cross-Canada PTSD awareness tour, also in response to the growing number of first responder suicides.
Research shows that the lifetime prevalence of PTSD in the general population is five to eight per cent. That figure jumps to 16 to 25 per cent among first responders. So students in those fields must learn not only how to do their future jobs but how to mitigate potential life-altering problems those jobs could cause.
In Georgian’s two paramedic programs, students cover content related to coping with traumatic stress in many theoretical and practical courses and must meet specific learning outcomes and professional competencies related to mental health and crisis intervention.
Primary care paramedic student Kayla Slade is mindful of the challenges ahead. “Every day paramedics face stressors which effect each individual differently. It is unrealistic to think that as I make my way through my career that I won’t be affected by someone or a situation that I am faced with. There isn’t one single correct way to combat or avoid the symptoms of PTSD, but Georgian has taught us to not feel like you have to hide it and to talk to someone about what you are feeling.”