April 25, 2014 6:24 pm

First responders get help coping with trauma of Calgary stabbing spree

CALGARY- The senseless deaths of five young students in Brentwood earlier this month sent shock waves through the city, especially among the post-secondary community. But the stabbing spree was also traumatic for emergency crews called to the scene, prompting some first responders to seek help from the CPS chaplain.

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“The sense of watching over a city weighs heavy on the shoulders of a police officer,” explains Paras Persad, who has been providing daily support to first responders since the mass murder. “I’m there for the person, for his needs, for his questions.”

S/Sgt. Darren Cave supervises officers in the district where the stabbing happened, and was also there in the early morning hours of April 15.

“There is nothing that can prepare you for what those officers were exposed to when they attended that scene,” Cave says. “I saw in them that morning physical and emotional exhaustion.

“People I normally see as being strong, resilient individuals, they were tired and they were spent.”

He adds that help from Persad is well received.

“Surprise, surprise, police officers are human beings too, and we’re better now at recognizing that about ourselves than, say, 30 years ago.”

Sadly, this is not the first time Chaplain Persad has been called in. Five years ago, he helped those who responded to a call in Dalhousie, where Joshua Lall killed his wife, two of his children and a basement tenant before taking his own life.

“I saw that need years and years ago, my dad was a police officer for 38 years,” Persad says, in explaining why he’s made counselling his vocation. “It’s not just being present at the scene, but it’s providing ongoing support for all of our members.”

Persad works full time out of the main Calgary Police Service campus, where there is a non-denominational chapel.

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