On a Saturday morning, while still drinking my morning coffee and catching up with social media, there was a story about another person losing his life at Lynn Canyon. This time it was a 16 year old American tourist visiting family in Vancouver for the summer. Despite numerous signs and fences warning of the dangers, every summer there are numerous folks jumping from the cliffs into the snow fed river.
Despite knowing better, I clicked on the story and started to read some of the comments left by readers. Comments ranged from an outpouring of sympathy and condolences for the family and friends of the young man, to an almost “you get what you deserve” flavour of comments, in relation to not heeding the warnings and jumping anyway, and of course, the dialogue regarding “are we doing enough to verbalize and emphasize the risk?” As usual, I was disheartened at some of the less than sensitive comments, however, these types of comments on social media are expected. What I couldn’t help noticing when I read these comments, is what has compelled me to write this, a lack of acknowledgment, understanding, and concern for those first on the scene.
Tragic, unexpected and random happenings occur every day and every day first responders, whether that be the general public bystander, volunteer search and rescue or professional paramedics, firefighters and police officers respond to assist us with our worst nightmares. Not much thought is paid to the impact of being the first on the scene.
With wildfires eating up much of our province, we see daily the tireless efforts of our first responders and firefighters, and give praise, as we should. However, these same individuals work every day, putting their physical, mental and emotional health at risk to help someone else, with little or no acknowledgement, and often without the care and follow up they require.
An article on the Global News website states: http://globalnews.ca/news/2888111/report-finds-first-responders-experiencing-ptsd-rates-similar-to-combat-veterans/
“ ‘Prolonged and regular exposure to traumatic events trigger PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] at rates similar to those found in service members returning from combat,’ the report, which cited multiple health studies, said. The IAFF referenced one study that estimates over 17 per cent of Canadian firefighters and paramedics reported rates of PTSD.“
We are engaging more and more in conversation around mental health and trying to alleviate the stigma associated. This gives me hope that we will encourage, acknowledge and support our first responders to seek out the assistance they need. Every day they show up, every day they are first on the scene and they never know what day is going to be the tipping point.
As we approach a long weekend, I want to urge everyone to stay safe and give some thought to the first responders: the strangers, bystanders, volunteers and emergency personnel who are first on the scene. We thank you.