Where were you when the world stopped turning? While that song brings back memories for those who lived through 9/11 for others it is just a song. For Canadians who lived through April 6, 2018, remembering hurts. While the memories of 9/11 fade, it will be harder for Canadians to forget about the tragedy that struck our province and our country. I don’t mean to diminish the horror or the pain felt on 9/11, but not only does April 6, 2018 hit close to home geographically, there are very few Canadians who don’t have a close link to someone who plays hockey.
I am aware that it is now May and the first anniversary has since passed, but May is also Mental Health Awareness Month. Because of that, I want to remember people who are often overlooked, those who are lumped under the umbrella of Emergency Services. Police, dispatchers, 911 staff, firefighters, Emergency Medical Responders, Emergency Medical Technicians, Primary Care Paramedics, STARS, Doctors, Nurses, Lab Technicians and hospital staff. Days like April 6 are tough on them. Actually, every day is tough on them.
In our community we are blessed to have a RCMP detachment, an ambulance service, a hospital just miles away, and a VOLUNTEER Fire Department. No, I am not yelling at you, well, maybe a little bit. While I know many of the EMS team and have the greatest respect for all of them, there is a special place in my heart for the members of the Fire Department. Simply put, it is because they are volunteers. For the majority of those in EMS this is a full-time paid position, but for our local fire fighters it is a voluntary position, held in conjunction with their full-time jobs. Yet they remain on call, 24 hours a day, ready to leap into action when the call comes in. They leave their wives and children in the middle of the night, the middle of a snow storm or a day at the pool, to come to the aid of their community. Over many years I have been blessed to get to know many of the EMS team, and they have a tough job. They deal with people in the worst moments of their lives. Each one, when pressed, will tell you that there is always a picture, a smell, a sound, a memory for every tragedy they have ever attended. I feel that their jobs are made even more difficult in smaller communities, such as ours, because they live here and come into close contact with the citizens. Many times, they may never see those people again, but other times they are someone they are familiar with. When the outcome is less than ideal and you encounter the families, how do you deal with that emotionally? While I don’t mean to diminish the difficulties faced by these same jobs in larger centers, I can’t help but wonder how often you might know the person you are helping. When the outcome is a good one, the feeling must be incredible, but when that isn’t the case, how do you deal with it?
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental illness caused by trauma. It is a reality for every member of Emergency Services. While many seek help, there are many who struggle. The stigma is one reason, but for many it takes a long time to come to recognize that it is PTSD is affecting them. So, as we move past the first year of the Humboldt Bruins tragedy, I ask that every time you hear a siren or a news report of yet another tragedy, remember to thank someone in Emergency Services for everything they do. You might just be the only bright spot in a dark day for them, and after all, they are just human too.