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First responders want PTSD recognized as a workplace hazard in B.C.

WATCH:  First responders say they need more help from the government in recovering from PTSD. Geoff Hastings reports.

VANCOUVER – First responders in B.C. are fighting to have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) recognized as a workplace hazard.

They say that the provincial government has not done enough to help and support those with PTSD.

Paramedic Lisa Jennings is leading a campaign to have PTSD recognized as a workplace hazard in B.C. and spoke a few weeks ago about her battle with the government around her own PTSD diagnosis.

She has started a grassroots campaign called ‘You Are Not Alone’ and they help paramedics, police officers, lawyers, correctional officers, 9-1-1 operators and members of the general public who are dealing with PTSD.

NDP MLA Shane Simpson, as the critic for jobs, labour and skills, has joined in that fight. “It is a challenge and we know the whole issue of PTSD, mental health impacts, has been really challenging to get appropriate diagnosis and then to get the appropriate supports,” he said. “I think it’s getting better. There’s more recognition as more people are stepping up and saying ‘I had some of these issues and I received support’. But we really do need to get at this in a more organized fashion.”

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“They face huge impacts, day in and day out in their job, whether it’s police, fire or paramedics and they do need those supports.”

Jobs Minister Shirley Bond said there already is a process in place that if someone has a medical diagnosis of PTSD that is work-related, they can make a claim through WorksafeBC.

“In May, 2012, we passed legislation, which was certainly the first of its kind in the country to recognize that there can be impacts on mental health, including as far ranging as PTSD,” she said.

But Simpson and Jennings want the government to implement presumptive disability legislation for PTSD for first responders.

Simpson said he is not sure if the government recognizes there is an elevated risk for people in those occupations and that the government needs to fast track them to get a diagnosis and get the help they need.

“On Monday I’ll be raising this question with the minister on Monday afternoon in the budget estimates process,” he said.

“We’re going to start to work through the steps. I’m hoping this isn’t going to be an adversarial or confrontational situation with the government to get a result.”