After finding success in a PTSD recovery centre in the United States, a New Brunswick firefighter is hoping to see similar facilities created in Canada.
Brad Calhoun spent nearly 20 years as a firefighter and paramedic, responding to some of the most difficult situations one can experience.
The on-the-job stress he endured left him feeling the crippling effects of PTSD, although it wasn’t until he began providing testing to other first responders that he realized he had developed the condition.
“As I’m looking at this checklist, I started to realize a lot of this stuff had related to me,” he explained. “Misdirected anger, hyper vigilance, I still suffer greatly with night terrors.”
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He received his official PTSD diagnosis shortly after but finding effective treatment proved very difficult.
Stints in recovery facilities in New Brunswick and Ontario left him feeling more or less the same as he had before beginning the programs.
“They chose to do some of what they call prolonged exposure which has had some success,” he said. “It didn’t have success with me, it actually made some of my signs and symptoms worse.”
“Around the table was people from various walks of life, not first responders,” Calhoun said.
He was then referred to the IAFF Center of Excellence in Maryland. A brand new facility that had only been open for a few months when he was admitted.
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After spending just over a month in their care, Calhoun said he felt better than he had in years thanks to the first responder specific approach they employ.
“They’ve really helped me a lot but this is going to be a life long struggle,” he admitted. “A lot of aftercare, continued counselling and continued support.”
“There is no doubt that there is a need right now currently for a facility such as that on this side of the border, hands down,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate and I hope that if anything can come out of this we start to be able to provide the same level of care to first responders right across the province, right across the country.”
In his lengthy career, Calhoun says he’s seen massive changes to how PTSD is regarded by management, unions and governments and hopes this will be the next step toward keeping first responders safe.
“20 years ago it was ‘suck it up,'” he said. “Now we’re trying to teach the kids it’s OK not to be OK.”