September 22, 2019

Winnipeg
16° C, A few clouds

Full Forecast

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Breaking wall of silence on PTSD

More first responders suffer from illness than are willing to ask for help, unions say

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/3/2016 (1273 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Some first responders in Winnipeg are paying out-of-pocket for mental-health services to avoid facing a perceived stigma in the workplace — months after provincial legislation was implemented aiming to make it easier to receive treatment for work-related, post-traumatic stress disorder.

Police, paramedics, firefighters and military personnel are still likely to “go underground” when seeking help for mental illness, said clinical psychologist Richard Shore, chairman of the board of directors for the Anxiety Disorders Association of Manitoba.

He says the first responders he treats for symptoms of PTSD will usually exhaust their third-party health coverage, which typically covers a percentage of three to 10 sessions per year, and then pay out-of-pocket rather than accessing treatment available through employee-assistance programs and the Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba because they want to avoid scrutiny from co-workers and supervisors.

“That’s not unusual. What they say is it’s worth it to them to know that it’s confidential,” Shore said.

Keep reading free:

Already have an account? Log in here »

Keep reading free:

Already have an account? Log in here »

Subscribers Log in below to continue reading,
not a subscriber? Create an account to start a 30 day free trial.

Log in Create your account

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Mon to Sat Delivery

Pay

$34.36

per month

  • Includes all benefits of All Access Digital
  • 6-day delivery of our award-winning newspaper
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/3/2016 (1273 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Some first responders in Winnipeg are paying out-of-pocket for mental-health services to avoid facing a perceived stigma in the workplace — months after provincial legislation was implemented aiming to make it easier to receive treatment for work-related, post-traumatic stress disorder.

Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press files</p><p>Provincial legislation came into effect this year to assist those in high-risk jobs.</p></p>

Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press files

Provincial legislation came into effect this year to assist those in high-risk jobs.

Police, paramedics, firefighters and military personnel are still likely to "go underground" when seeking help for mental illness, said clinical psychologist Richard Shore, chairman of the board of directors for the Anxiety Disorders Association of Manitoba.

He says the first responders he treats for symptoms of PTSD will usually exhaust their third-party health coverage, which typically covers a percentage of three to 10 sessions per year, and then pay out-of-pocket rather than accessing treatment available through employee-assistance programs and the Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba because they want to avoid scrutiny from co-workers and supervisors.

"That’s not unusual. What they say is it’s worth it to them to know that it’s confidential," Shore said.

"It’s a shame that they can’t utilize the coverage that they were given but there’s so much paranoia (about) the cost of (employers) finding out."

Unions representing local police, firefighters and paramedics say they know more first responders are suffering with PTSD and other mental-health conditions than are willing to ask for help from their employers.

A 2014 health and wellness survey of 400 Winnipeg Police Service officers found about six per cent of them likely suffered from PTSD, "yet the record of claims before WCB from our membership is very modest," noted a Winnipeg Police Association report last year.

The report said the police service’s in-house mental-health supports could be contributing to the relatively low number of claims filed, but WPA president Maurice Sabourin told the Free Press some officers are concerned about informing the police service that they need treatment.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PREsS files</p><p>A 2014 report found roughly six per cent of WPS officers likely suffer from PTSD.</p></p>

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PREsS files

A 2014 report found roughly six per cent of WPS officers likely suffer from PTSD.

The WPS declined to comment.

"We do have a psychologist on hand, but the unfortunate thing is some members still see a psychologist as being a stigma and there’s the concern that it’s not as confidential as it should be because the psychologist is an employee of the service. There’s always that concern that, even though there’s patient-client confidentiality, the psychologist is an employee of the service and is anything filtering through?" Sabourin said.

This is in spite of existing Manitoba legislation that officially recognizes post-traumatic stress as a work-related condition.

The legislation, which came into effect at the beginning of the year, was designed so employees in high-risk jobs no longer have to prove their work contributed to their PTSD. It means employees who are diagnosed with PTSD are immediately eligible for treatment and workers’ compensation.

Alex Forrest, president of the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg, said 10 firefighters have filed workers’ compensation claims for PTSD treatment since the law came into effect.

He said the union wants to see the fire department bring in a full-time mental-health officer to help fire and paramedic staff.

"A lot of firefighters, they are dealing with it themselves. And we are trying to fight that, because these are firefighters that have always wanted to help people and now it’s very difficult for them to ask for help. They don’t want their fellow workers to know that they are having issues," Forrest said.

"But what happens is that many of these (individuals) that deal with it on their own, they come up in the system in other ways.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files</p><p>‘A lot of firefighters, they are dealing with it themselves’</p></p>

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files

‘A lot of firefighters, they are dealing with it themselves’

"We deal with our members that deal with alcohol abuse, drug abuse, anger management, marital breakdowns — so that’s how we know there’s so many more than just the 10 that have come forward and formally put in workers’ compensation claims."

As they continue to advocate for more mental-health resources, both unions say awareness is improving and attitudes are changing within police and fire departments, which are now seeing more retired employees seeking help for mental illnesses.

"They’re changing, but they’re slow. It’s just like any change. Sometimes, it takes time for members to trust the system of confidentiality and to actually feel comfortable with coming forward," Sabourin said.

One of the common first symptoms of post-traumatic stress is rage, which can lead to discipline issues at work, along with dissociation from reality (zoning out), anxiety, depression and panic attacks.

PTSD often manifests itself via drug and alcohol abuse and, if left untreated, leads to an increased risk of suicide, particularly for first responders, who will often play down symptoms because they don’t want to stop working, clinical psychologist Shore said.

"The higher in authority — the higher the better — needs to convey down the line that PTSD should not be stigmatized and that it is the nervous system’s normal reaction to something that it can’t handle," Shore said.

katie.may@freepress.mb.ca

Katie May

Katie May
Justice reporter

Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.

Read full biography

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

History

Updated on Monday, March 28, 2016 at 8:33 PM CDT: First responders paying out-of-pocket for treatment despite new PTSD legislation

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us