Face It Together
In 2017, Local 920 lost a member to posttraumatic stress injury (PTSI). This member was a volunteer firefighter and a full-time paramedic. The mental injury he suffered through witnessing harrowing scenes day in and day out ultimately led to his death by suicide on June 14, 2017.
Many CLAC members and fellow volunteer firefighters responded to that 911 call, and some of those members are still off on leave. Local 920 members approached their representative, Jennifer Kennedy, about raising PTSI awareness, and the idea to hold an annual awareness day was born.
CLAC represents over 1,100 volunteer firefighters in Ontario, who are members of Local 920 and 911. A number of members have struggled with PTSI due to events they experienced at work.
In 2018, we held our first Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Day, and in 2019, we changed the name to PTSI to align with the term used by the federal department of public safety. We also moved our observance of the day from May 16 to June 27, to align with the day observed by the Alberta and Ontario governments, who have recently begun holding an awareness day.
On June 27, we held a small ceremony at the Cambridge Member Centre to honour those struggling with PTSI and to raise awareness of its devastating effects. Will Bouma, member of provincial parliament (MPP) for Brantford–Brant, who also serves as a volunteer firefighter, along with Amy Fee (MPP for Kitchener South–Hespeler) both attended and spoke at the event. Local 920 member Cordell Deck read a moving statement from one of his colleagues who is living with PTSI. Ian DeWaard, CLAC Ontario director, who has represented volunteer firefighters for many years, along with Jennifer Kennedy rounded out the speaker list.
We are pleased that the provincial government has taken steps to acknowledge workers struggling with PTSI, and we will continue to advocate for these workers and raise awareness of the impacts of PTSI.
- People develop PTSI after witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event, or a series of traumatic events.
- Canada has the highest prevalence of PTSI among 24 other developed and underdeveloped nations.
- Approximately 9.2 percent of Canadians will be affected by PTSI in their lifetime.
- Many of those affected by PTSI are first responders, who risk their lives and their mental health to keep Canadians safe.