The Carleton Place planning and protection committee heard on Oct. 17 that a September awareness session on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) aimed at firefighters and their spouses drew an astounding 136 participants from eastern Lanark County.
“This is certainly a hot topic in the emergency services world now, and we’ve worked hard to reduce the stigma around mental illness so people are free to talk about it,” said Les Reynolds, the town’s director of protective services. “This turnout is an indication of the interest and concern there is.”
Reynolds explained the sessions are designed to help firefighters become aware of oncoming problems both for themselves, their spouses, and their fellow workers.
“We’re quick to associate PTSD with the military, but it’s certainly not restricted to that,” added Mayor Louis Antonakos. “It’s interesting how over the past 10 years or so, those four letters have just become really well known, because it wasn’t always talked about.”
Reynolds agreed, noting the emotional and psychological toll exacted by specific critical events has become increasingly recognized across the employment spectrum, as well as in individuals’ personal lives. “Joe Blow walking down the street could witness a traumatic incident and suffer as a result of it, depending on the circumstances,” Reynolds pointed out. “What’s important to note is that police, firefighters and paramedics are twice as likely to experience this as the general population.”
Councillor Sean Redmond chimed in that he had spoken to a number of first responders who expressed gratitude for the awareness session, “and their spouses were very glad too, because quite often your spouse is your first line of defence. The more you talk about it, the more you’re aware of it, and the better equipped to deal with it.”
More PTSD awareness sessions are scheduled in Lanark County later this month.