WATCH ABOVE: Earlier this week, an Edmonton paramedic took his own life. As Kendra Slugoski reports, many on the front lines say it’s a wake-up call that can’t be ignored.
EDMONTON – Veteran paramedic Greg Turner was laid to rest on Saturday. Turner took his own life while on the job early in the morning on Jan. 26.
“I have lost my best friend, my husband, and the very best father to my kids I could ask for,” wrote his wife Bridget Turner in an emotional Facebook post.
“I am broken. I know in my heart that this was not a choice. He did not choose death over us. Depression made that choice for him and it was a battle he was too sick to fight. It is a disease that kills without the right treatment, just like cancer.
“He was a man who gave so much to others and to me and I have been so blessed to have been married to him. Thank you for the outpouring of support of the EMS community. Your stories and kind words about Greg have helped our families immensely.
“I pray that our experience will keep the conversation going about the help you guys need to stay healthy with the stressors you deal with everyday. Keith, I am so thankful that he had a friend and partner that he trusted without a doubt to be at his side all these years impacting so many countless lives. He loved you. To my family and friends, I would be in pieces if it wasn’t for you. Please keep my children and I in your thoughts as we travel this unexpected road. I love you Greg Turner, with all my heart.”
Paramedics and EMTs are trained to respond to the most tragic calls, amid sometimes challenging and frustrating work conditions. But that Monday morning, a call came in to save the life of one of their own.
Those who knew Turner personally say he was dedicated to his profession.
“We’ve lost a brother,” reads a post on the Paramedics Representing Paramedics group. The Facebook page has become an outlet for workers to speak out about issues on the job.
“No words can express the grief experienced,” the post continued.
“Our deepest and most heartfelt condolences go out to his family, friends and co-workers, particularly those who valiantly attempted resuscitation.”
Members of the group were also urged “to reach out for support” to loved ones “and know the avenues of support available to you.”
Other paramedics tell Global News they aren’t getting the support they need.
“One suicide is too many suicides, let alone 34 that have been happening,” said Andre Devore, president of the Alberta Paramedics Association, on Wednesday.
“It really highlights the uphill battle that we have ahead of us to address mental health concerns in first responders,” he added. “We need to take a really good hard look at what we’re doing to help these paramedics who, on a daily basis, help other people and are there during their worst days.”
Since New Year’s, at least four Canadian first responders have died by suicide.
Since April 2014, more than 30 first responders across Canada – police officers, firefighters, paramedics, soldiers and corrections officers – took their own lives, according to a foundation that’s made its mission to work with emergency personnel around mental health.
LIVE CHAT: First responders and PTSD
On Tuesday, the Alberta College of Paramedics issued a statement:
“The Alberta College of Paramedics is saddened to know the loss of Greg Turner, EMT-P. Greg served as a registered member in our province for 16 years, a period in which he earned the utmost respect of his colleagues, including those here at the College who studied and practised alongside him. We extend our sincerest condolences to those whom he touched, especially his friends and family members.
It is at this time that we reflect on the strength, resiliency and closeness of the paramedicine community, as well as the dedication with which Greg served throughout his career.
Paramedicine practitioners are honourable and proud professionals who train and prepare to serve those when help is needed most, but nothing can truly ease the pain when one of our own is unexpectedly lost. We commend the practitioners who worked rapidly in an attempt to resuscitate Greg, and remind every member to rely on support networks during this difficult time of mourning.
On behalf of the staff and Council of the Alberta College of Paramedics, and EMRs, EMTs and EMT-Ps across the province, we bid our deepest sympathies.
– Sheldon Thunstrom, Council President”
Alberta Health Services said it has extended support to Turner’s family, colleagues, EMS and emergency department staff in the entire Edmonton zone.
Meanwhile, the Alberta EMS Code Red Facebook community asked all Albertans to pray for Turner’s family and for Edmonton emergency workers who must continue to work in spite of their grief.
As paramedics and first responders learned of Turner’s death throughout the day, many changed their Facebook profile photos to an EMS crest with his registration number.
A donation fund has been started for Turner’s family by the Alberta HELP Fund, which assists “paramedics who fall on hard times.”
Police and Occupational Health and Safety were called in to investigate the death, which was deemed non-criminal.
Global News recently shed more light on the work conditions of paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) with our second Code Red series.
With files from Kendra Slugoski, Global News
*NOTE: This article was originally published on Jan. 26 and was updated on Jan. 28 with confirmation Turner died by suicide. It was updated again on Feb. 2 with Bridget Turner’s Facebook comment.