January 26, 2016 3:10 am

Preparation better than crisis response for PTSD, says retired paramedic


KELOWNA, B.C. – A retired paramedic has begun offering emergency responders in B.C. survival skills to help prevent Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“When you dial 911 in any community across Canada, first responders come running to help you, but who’s coming to help them?” asks Michael Swainson.

Swainson says it’s not a matter of when an emergency worker will encounter a traumatic event, it’s how many will they experience in a career.

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“Like the death of a child, an injury to a coworker, or maybe the suicide of a coworker,” says Swainson.

“How many big rocks can you shove into your emotional backpack before you fall over?”

Swainson says instead of trying to manage the feelings after a crisis, first responders should prepare how they’ll handle critical events as they train for their career.

“Can we help these guys develop psychological body armour?” he asks.

Swainson has begun offering training to B.C. fire fighters, their wives and paramedic students.

Some of the recommendations to help prevent PTSD include finding a work-life balance, crying after a bad incident and seeking pet therapy.

“If your job runs your life, then you get yourself out of balance,” he says.

PTSD can develop following exposure to extreme trauma, which Swainson says first responders see day in, day out.

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