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Under new rules, first responders in B.C. won’t have to prove PTSD is work-related

First responders tend to an overdose victim in Vancouver's Downtown East Side.
First responders tend to an overdose victim in Vancouver's Downtown East Side. Sarah Blyth / Twitter

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.

READ MORE: PTSD, suicide and first responders — A lot of talk, and not much progress

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.

WATCH: PTSD among first responders

PTSD among first responders
PTSD among first responders
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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.

READ MORE: Programs in place to help B.C.’s first responders manage PTSD in wake of opioid crisis

“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.

WATCH: Abbotsford hiring firefighters because of ‘opioid burnout’

Abbotsford hiring firefighters because of ‘opioid burnout’
Abbotsford hiring firefighters because of ‘opioid burnout’

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.

READ MORE: B.C. first responders need help with PTSD: ‘we’re there 24/7, 365’

“This legislation helps break down that stigma and acknowledges this is a real issue for first responders,” he said.

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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

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