Heroes, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Suicide

Opinion by EHN Staff
Written by Peter A. Levine, a support counsellor who works at Bellwood Health Services.

For many first responders on the frontlines of the unfolding human drama of our world, whether they be military, police, firefighters, or paramedics, the trauma of battle, whether to save lives or protect lives, doesn’t end as they return home. For many of them, it continues for years in the confines and silence of their own beings, manifesting as the debilitating symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): intrusive thoughts, nightmares, insomnia, anxiety, avoidance, isolation, and the constant re-living of their traumatic experiences. From the paramedic who was unable to save the young child, to the police officer who witnessed the carnage of suicide, to the soldier whose guilt racks his conscience for the lives he took, whatever their story, the common denominator is that once they are home from the frontlines, the inner fight for life over death begins. And tragically, without proper care, the consequences of PTSD can often be fatal.

Recently, after the death of three officers by suicide in one month, the head of the union of the Ontario Provincial Police implored its thousands of members to seek help if they ever experience any mental health problems. To most citizens, these first responders are heroes, protecting their families, communities, and countries from crime, violence, disasters, terrorism, and conflict. However, to themselves, they are simply, and very humbly, human. Despite the macho culture of “sucking it up” and moving on, they often find the past won’t let go so easily.

And so the battle begins, but the terrain of this battle is squarely within their own hearts and minds, the lives that need saving are their own, and the weapons and ammunition in this battle are faith, honesty, courage, patience, serenity, commitment, reason, trust, meaning, and love. May we all do our part to bring victory to this battlefield, speedily, and in our day.

We Can Help You

If you would like to learn more about the addiction and trauma treatment programs offered by EHN Canada, please call us at one of the numbers below. Our phone lines are open 24/7—so you can call us anytime.

  • 1-800-387-6198 for Bellwood treatment center in Toronto, ON
  • 1-800-683-0111 for Edgewood treatment center in Nanaimo, BC
  • 1-888-488-2611 for Clinique Nouveau Depart in Montreal, QC

Further Reading

Workers’ compensation and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment programs for first responders.