A B.C. MLA wants the provincial government to declare post-traumatic stress disorder a “presumptive illness” for emergency workers in order to guarantee coverage for health services.

B.C. NDP MLA Shane Simpson says there is concern the British Columbia government isn’t doing enough to help firefighters, police officers and paramedics suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Studies have shown that first responders experience higher rates of PTSD and can face an increased risk of suicide. Unlike British Columbia, some provinces, such as Alberta and Saskatchewan, have now deemed the disorder a “presumptive illness” for emergency workers in order to guarantee coverage for those who suffer from it.

Simpson has put forward a bill asking the B.C. government to follow suit.

“We would presume that (PTSD) was occupationally related and immediately approve the claim without having to go through the application process,” Simpson told CTV Vancouver.

Police officer and part-time paramedic John Smith has experienced PTSD. He knows how hard it can be for some emergency workers to deal with the sometimes horrific and tragic aspects of their jobs. Smith says he got the support he needed, but adds he is one of the lucky ones.

“There’s things you can’t unsee,” Smith said in an interview with CTV Vancouver. “There are things you can’t un-experience.”

Smith says it’s never one incident, but a number of them that can profoundly affect frontline workers. He says in the past, he would be tasked with delivering “bad news to some mother and father and my hands are shaking as I’m driving out there.”

Smith supports the proposed bill and says WorkSafeBC, a statutory agency that handles worker compensation matters, “could make it easier for the very people that need the help.”

In an emailed statement to CTV Vancouver, B.C. Labour Minister Shirley Bond said workers’ compensation coverage for work-related mental disorders has been expanded in the province, and PTSD is included in that coverage.

However, there is no specific reference to PTSD and first responders in the legislation.

With a report by CTV Vancouver Maria Weisgarber