Edmonton-area paramedic creating mental health fund for first responders

EDMONTON – First responders often see awful things; things that most of us can’t even imagine.

Often, their experiences leave lasting impressions. Some battle mental health challenges, like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“For people and first responders that see a lot of tragic things in their job, it does take a toll on your mental faculties,” said Daniel Sundahl.

Sundahl is a paramedic and firefighter, and he knows how hard getting over incidents can be. That’s why he’s setting up a scholarship fund for first responders. The fund will pay for first responders to go to conferences and events held by the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation.

READ MORE: In Harm’s Way: The PTSD crisis among Canada’s first responders

There, the recipients will learn about mental and critical health, and learn suicide prevention techniques. When they come back, recipients will share what they learn with their colleagues.

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Sundahl is using the proceeds from his soon-to-be-released photography book to fund the scholarship.

“I’m going to send as many people as I can afford,” he said, adding he plans to attend the foundation’s next event in Baltimore.

WATCH: Edmonton-area paramedic uses job experience to produce graphic photos of life after emergency calls

According to Sundahl, most first responders aren’t taught how to cope with what they see each day.

“We really don’t have a lot of training on how to deal with that. We have lots of training on how to do other things, but we never learn how to deal with those types of situations when we go to school.”

READ MORE: Edmonton’s first responders will lead K-Days Parade

For some, the toll of what they witness can be too much to bear.

“The bottom line is a lot of first responders are killing themselves because they can’t get treatment or can’t find a way out,” said Sundahl.

He said the fact that more first responders are seeking outside help and counselling is a positive change.

“People that have PTSD, a big part of it is that they feel they’re suffering by themselves, or they’re embarrassed to share it with other people, ” said Sundahl.

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“But if they can learn that they’re not alone in how they’re feeling, and that it’s actually quite common and normal, that’s a big step in the treatment plan.”

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