First responders call for more support as report flags 44 suicides in one year
First responders are calling on Ottawa to provide increased mental health support for all Canadians, after 44 first responders and military members died by suicide in the past year.
Vince Savoia from the Tema Conter Memorial Trust said the group will be in Ottawa over the next three days, calling for free and improved access to psychological services for all Canadians.
He said while much has been done in recent years to raise awareness about mental health issues, not enough has been done to improve access to health care services and support.
He noted that when you break a limb you can go into a hospital and expect to be treated by a doctor that same day. But when you seek help for a mental health issue, you are often referred to a specialist and put on a lengthy wait list.
"We're all talking about mental health, but we're not doing anything about it," Savoia told CTV's Canada AM on Monday.
More has to be done to combat the stigma surrounding mental health problems in the work place as well, he added, noting that there is still a pervasive "John Wayne" attitude among first responders where the expectation is that they will "suck it up, move on to the next call, and don't talk about it."
"Three's still that shame of coming forward," he said. "The unfortunate reality is that there are still some organizations in this great country of ours that still perpetuate that stigma."
He said he has heard many stories from first responders who have been ostracized by their colleagues after they came forward and asked for help.
"That's the culture that we need to change, and we need to make sure people understand that there is no shame in coming forward and asking for help," he said.
The Tema Conter Memorial Trust collects data on the number of deaths by suicide among first responders and military members. However, it is only able to track the ones that have been reported and confirmed by another source, meaning that there are likely more, Savoia said.
The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention has a list of crisis centres across the country that you can contact if you are in distress and are thinking about suicide.