After 3 suicides in 18 months, Alberta paramedics and psychologists team up for new registry
EDMONTON – Paramedic Marc Moebis describes a typical call: a vehicle crash on a busy highway in freezing temperatures. He’s performing precise medical procedures to try to save a patient’s life, while dealing with panicking family members.
“Exposure to that kind of stress and that type of trauma ultimately gives us stress injuries that are complicated,” said Moebis, the executive director of the Alberta Paramedic Association (APA).
“If (paramedics) incurred as much physical trauma as we do mental trauma, we would be in at the doctor every week.”
Now paramedics can access psychologists who are trained specifically to treat them.
To qualify, a psychologist must have expertise in managing trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. They must also attend a workshop, run by EMS, about what paramedics do.
“We’ve had many paramedics report to us that sometimes in their first or second therapy session, a lot of what they’ll do is just explain what a paramedic is and what a paramedic does,” Moebis said.
According to the APA, most members leave the profession after five years due to stress. Twenty per cent of paramedics meet the diagnostic criteria for PTSD and 10 per cent have considered suicide.
“We’re actually aware of three paramedic suicides over the last… 18 months,” Moebis said.
Dr. Judi Malone says first responders face unique challenges on the job.
“Most of our first responders are in situations where they’re having small, ongoing traumatic experiences on a really regular basis,” said Malone, the PAA’s executive director.
“If we take care of the people taking care of the rest of us, we make this province a better place.”
So far 10 Alberta psychologists have qualified for the new registry. The APA invites all first responders to use it.
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