First responder at Quebec mosque shooting dies by suicide
The family and friends of a Quebec City paramedic who died by suicide following a 2017 mosque shooting are calling for improved mental health services for first responders.
Andreanne Leblanc, 31, was described as a highly-social, outgoing and dedicated paramedic, but her mother, Lucie Roy, told CTV Montreal she was never the same after the shooting.
"She had all the signs of somebody with post-traumatic stress," Roy said from her home in the Magdalen Islands. "She had difficulty sleeping because her schedule was all damaged, she worked many years at all times of the day... I'm not sure she was realizing it."
On Jan. 29, 2017, Alexandre Bissonnette opened fire inside a Quebec City mosque, killing six worshippers. Bissonnette has pleaded guilty to six counts of first-degree murder and another six counts of attempted murder.
Leblanc’s team rushed several victims to hospital and were put on standby for several hours while officers searched for a possible second shooter.
Roy said her daughter took some time off following the shooting to cope and had a breakdown in late 2017. She left her job last fall and returned to live with her mom in her childhood home.
She received a single hour of counselling in the days following the shooting. “It was difficult for her to ask for help, to admit she needed help,” Roy said.
Leblanc died by suicide in March. She was found wearing her paramedic’s uniform.
A note in her pocket read: “At least I saved some lives.”
“I think she felt after (the shooting), she couldn’t go back to working as a paramedic because she realized after Christmas-time that she couldn’t make it anymore,” Roy said.
Andre Tremblay-Roy, one of Leblanc’s former colleagues and the vice-president of his local paramedic’s union, said the life of a paramedic can take its toll on someone’s mental state.
“We have a kind of tag or label of ‘superhero,’ but we remain human,” he said. “We made a choice in the past to become a paramedic, but it’s not easy to realize…the reality you will face in your career.”
So far in 2018, seven first responders have died by suicide. The number was 46 in 2017.
The Paramedic Association of Canada offers education days, to help encourage workers to reach out when they feel they need help, and train them for the risks they may face on the job.
“If we can increase our resilience and overall wellness before those calls, we will have better outcomes,” said Jennifer Lundin, a paramedic.
But Tremblay-Roy said the stress of arriving first to traumatic scenes impacts everyone differently. He’s calling for improved services to properly identify and help those who might be struggling with the stresses of the job.
Tremblay-Roy suggests certain paramedics could be specifically trained to identify mental health issues among their colleagues.
“We have to start having health and security committees,” he said. “We have to talk more about the brain (and) the mental health for each paramedic.”
Tremblay-Roy would also like to see a national protocol implemented for how paramedics cope with the aftermath of a mass shooting or other high casualty event.
“I don’t want to put the blame on anybody,” he said. “It’s not a question of (blaming) someone, it’s a question of how can we make the resources available for a paramedic at just the beginning of the problem.”
With a report from CTV’s Genevieve Beauchemin and CTV Montreal’s Max Harrold