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B.C. provincial government introduces new legislation for public safety personnel

Study shows public safety personnel four times more likely than general public to screen positive for mental disorder symptoms
| www.cos-mag.com
Paramedics

The British Columbia government has announced legislative amendments – a presumptive clause recognizing stress-related injuries, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder. The province’s minister of labour, Harry Bains, made the announcement yesterday, stating that people working in this profession will have greater access to services and compensation for mental disorders. 

The amendments will be made to the Workers Compensation Act. 

"These changes are about fairness and support for workers who put their lives on the line, to protect British Columbians as part of their jobs," Bains said. "The legislative changes are a first step toward providing more support to workers who are first on the scene at challenging, and sometimes dangerous and traumatic, situations. Government will consider over time expanding presumptions to other types of workers who experience traumatic events at work, as well as continuing to focus on overall workplace safety. First responders, sheriffs and both provincial and federal correctional officers who experience trauma on the job and are diagnosed with a mental disorder, should not have the added stress of having to prove that their disorder is work related, in order to receive support and compensation."

But, this legislation passed does not extend to call-takers and dispatchers.

Public safety personnel, including paramedics, police, firefighters, dispatchers and corrections officers, are four times more likely than the general population to screen positive for clinically significant symptoms consistent with one or more mental disorders, reveals a study published by the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.

According to the study "paramedics report experiencing very high rates of exposure to human suffering for which they often feel responsible, potentiating substantial emotional stress" and have a higher incidence of positive screening than other public safety personnel.

"Paramedics and dispatchers are routinely exposed to unimaginable trauma and tragedy," said Lindsay Kellosalmi, chair of critical incident stress management with the Ambulance Paramedics and Emergency Dispatchers of BC. "Both the Ambulance Paramedics and Emergency Dispatchers of BC and British Columbia Emergency Health Services have worked very hard to improve the resources available to paramedics and dispatchers in our province."

The government says legislative changes are a first step toward providing more support to workers who are first on the scene at challenging, sometimes dangerous and traumatic, situations.

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