On February 9th 2017, Brian McMeekin, Advanced Care Paramedic for Stettler District Ambulance Association, had the pleasure and distinction of attending the second reading of Bill C-211 in Ottawa at the House of Commons. Brian attended the reading under the invitation of Todd Doherty MP for Caribou – Prince George, who introduced the bill. Bill C-211 as proposed is a Federal framework for PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) care for first responders and military personnel in Canada.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in first responders typically occurs after a critical incident. Symptoms can include depression, anxiety, hypervigilance or a higher state of arousal, avoidance of places, people or senses like smells that are reminders of the incident, vivid and intrusive flashbacks, nightmares and loss of sleep. One study performed by the city of Ottawa of its first responders discovered that paramedics are most at risk for PTSD. Reported cases vary from province to province but studies state that the incidence of PTSD in paramedics in Canada is between 15-25% with 33,500 paramedics in Canada according to the Paramedic Association of Canada. That equates to approximately 8375 paramedics suffering. Suicide rates of paramedics in Canada are also three times higher than the national average and two and a half times higher than other first responders in Canada, according to data from the TEMA Conter Memorial Trust.
With these statistics in mind Todd Doherty MP introduced Bill C-211 which is a national framework for PTSD care for Canadian first responders (Police, Firefighters, Paramedics Correctional Officers, 911 dispatchers and Military personnel). Bill C-211 would also require industries to perform accurate and meaningful studies into the causes of and effective treatment of PTSD.
Brian has been working on his own to help end the stigma of mental illness and PTSD within emergency services by participating in studies, talking at schools offering paramedicine programs, speaking with the producers of a documentary and talking with Todd Doherty MP. The invitation to attend the reading and debate of this bill in the House of Commons was an honor that could not be passed up. Brian joined other first responders in solidarity in Ottawa with representation from Ottawa EMS (Ontario), Halton regional EMS (Ontario), Simcoe EMS (Ontario), Montreal Paramedics (Quebec), Gatineau Paramedics (Quebec), Ontario Provincial Police and Military officers. I was the only representative from western Canada at this event and was proud to wear his service uniform representing Stettler District ambulance. Brian also had the opportunity to meet with the MP’s from Oshawa and Victoria regarding this issue. On the floor during the debate bill C-211 had support from all parties. Brian is proud and honored to be even a small part of a bill that could help countless first responders and Military men and woman nationwide.
Brian would also like to thank The Stettler District Ambulance for supporting him and encouraging him not only during this trip but to help end the stigma.
Figure 1Brian McMeekin is third from the right. Members of Ottawa EMS, Simcoe County EMS, Todd Doherty MP, Gatineau Paramedics, Montreal Paramedics, Stettler District Ambulance and Halton regional EMS represented.
Figure 2Brian McMeekin with Todd Doherty MP