The province plans to make changes to B.C. labour laws that will give first responders and certain other frontline workers more access to services and compensation for disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
It’s a pressing issue. According to the Tema Conter Memorial Trust (TEMA), at least 52 first responders committed suicide in Canada last year.
The issue disproportionately affects paramedics and corrections workers, who make up more than half of the country’s first responder PTSD cases.
But in order for first responders in B.C. to have their treatment covered they have had to prove that the mental disorder was brought on by the job.
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On Wednesday, the NDP government introduced changes to the Workers Compensation Act that would designate PTSD and certain other mental disorders as “presumptive conditions” that are linked to specific kinds of jobs.
The new changes would apply to firefighters, police officers, paramedics, sheriffs and correctional officers.
“First responders, sheriffs and both provincial and federal correctional officers who experience trauma on the job and are diagnosed with a mental disorder, should not have the added stress of having to prove that their disorder is work-related, in order to receive support and compensation,” Labour Minister Harry Bains said in a statement.
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Vancouver Fire Fighters Association President Robert Weeks said the move is something first responders have been calling for for some time.
“It relieves the firefighter from having to go through reliving the event in order to justify the reason they are struggling with a mental health issue,” he told Global News.
Weeks said firefighters are six times more likely to think about suicide than the general public.
“This legislation helps break down that stigma and acknowledges this is a real issue for first responders,” he said.
The proposed amendments will also extend existing presumptions about cancer from municipal firefighters to federal firefighters on military bases.
The legislature has yet to vote on the new changes.
-With files from Maham Abedi