August 11, 2015 at 8:39 PM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 12, 2015
AMBULANCE PARAMEDICS ADVOCATE FOR MORE MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT FOR PARAMEDICS
Vancouver, B.C. – Following a survey of paramedics across Canada, the Ambulance Paramedics of British Columbia (APBC) are drawing attention to the on-going issue of mental health injury among paramedics and dispatchers. There is an urgent need for a more streamlined process for paramedics and dispatchers suffering with mental health injuries to receive support.
Today, APBC released the BC results of a Canada-wide survey conducted by the Paramedic Association of Canada showing the mental health concerns among BC’s paramedics.
Key findings of the study include:
- 97% said paramedics and dispatchers need support for cumulative impact of multiple traumatic calls over career
- 94% said paramedics and dispatchers need support for other mental health issues such as depression and anxiety
- 66% said they knew of another paramedic who at some time contemplated suicide
- 30% said they have personally considered suicide
The current legislation to access support through WorkSafeBC requires a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) diagnosis associated with one specific traumatic incident. However, this does not always reflect the reality of paramedics’ mental health injuries.
“The survey results were an eye-opener, but also served as a wakeup call that our paramedics and dispatchers are in desperate need of better access to mental health support services,” says Bronwyn Barter, President of Ambulance Paramedics of British Columbia.
Paramedics and dispatchers deal with multiple calls in a single shift, and tens of thousands over their career. The cumulative effects of seeing traumatic incidents day-after-day can lead to mental health injuries, more than just PTSD. These injuries affect both their job performance and their personal lives.
While some paramedics and dispatchers do suffer from PTSD, other mental health injuries include: depression, anger, and anxiety. These types of injuries are not easily attributable to one traumatic incident. Unfortunately, paramedics and dispatchers are not getting the care they need to address these very real workplace injuries.
APBC is advocating for two key changes to improve support to paramedics and dispatchers;
- A broader range of mental health injuries or illness for which paramedics and dispatchers will receive support;
- Presumptive eligibility from WorkSafeBC in recognition that paramedics and dispatchers suffer from mental health injuries in their regular course of work.
These small changes will allow paramedics and dispatchers to receive the care they truly need.
With quicker access to care, paramedics and dispatchers would have a shorter recovery time from mental injuries and in turn be able to spend more time actively working.
“Mental health injuries are a very real and critical issue for our members,” added Barter. “Ambulance paramedics and dispatchers are there when we need them most; it seems reasonable that we look after them when they are in need.”
Over 6,136 paramedics responded to the online survey nationwide; BC results are based on 639 responses. More than 50 per cent of the paramedics interviewed had over 10 years’ experience on the job.