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PTSD legislation the right thing to do

(March 14, 2016) Recently, the Liberals introduced proposed legislation that is designed to help our first responders who are experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


Such legislation is long overdue in Ontario and something the PC Party welcomes.


This legislation means first responders diagnosed with PTSD will automatically qualify for WSIB benefits.


My colleagues across the floor have created legislation – that if approved – would mandate that WSIB presume a first responder diagnosed with PTSD suffered something traumatic on the job.


Simply put, they will no longer have to prove what they are dealing with was caused at work.


The great thing about this change is it will get our first responders faster access to the care they need.


This is good news and something our party has believed is necessary for some time.


For example, we supported NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo's Private Member's Bill, which stated that PTSD be presumed an occupational disease. This support goes back to 2014.


As Interim Leader of the Ontario PC Party, I spoke about the importance of helping first responders battling PTSD when I addressed the Police Association of Ontario in October 2014.


As first responders, police officers are willing to put their lives on the line and be there when needed. The same can be said of all our first responders.


So it's not asking too much to have help available for our first responders when they need it.


We understand that every shift they work there is the potential to expose them to the kinds of traumatic experiences that can only be understood by someone who has walked in their shoes.


It's true the average person can't imagine what our first responders experience at a scene. However, we can understand that these experiences have the potential to cause harm.


Thankfully, our society is waking up to the realization that mental health is just as important as physical health.


Post-traumatic stress disorder is not something you can shake off, a belief that for too long left people to suffer in silence, or to finally take their lives to make the nightmare stop.


Not too long ago, a friend of mine who battled PTSD took his life. It was a sad outcome for a person who was so intelligent, funny, and loving. In the end, PTSD robbed our society of a loving husband, father, son, a hard worker, a person who could have contributed so much more to our world.


I know we've all been touched by loss in ways like this. Mental health doesn't check your bank balance, or social station, before deciding whether to visit.


First responders are glad to see the government finally acting on the PTSD issue.


"I am happy to see that it's presumptive to be from work as I think for the most part it is not one call that affects us, it's cumulative stress," one first responder told me.


Still, she added, that one call might be the trigger that brings on PTSD.


This is a reminder that trauma impacts our first responders differently.


For many first responders, there is still a stigma attached to PTSD. Some are embarrassed and upset at what people will think of them. We must stress, at all times, there is no shame in dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.


PC Leader Patrick Brown is fond of saying there is no monopoly on a good idea. Well, this help for first responders is certainly the right thing to do and something we as a party believe in.

 

Jim Wilson is the Progressive Conservative MPP for Simcoe-Grey.


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