Speech for the Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, at the opening of the National Roundtable on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
January 29, 2016
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Good morning everyone. Welcome to the University of Regina in the heart of Regina-Wascana Constituency, and welcome to this National Roundtable on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder — particularly in relation to the courageous first responders who serve all our communities.
I want to thank all of you for coming this morning. The calibre of those in attendance is very high. I'm grateful for your willingness to be here. And right off the bat, I need to apologize for not being able to join you myself.
As you know, Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Wall are in La Loche today, meeting and listening to people in that grieving community in the wake of the tragic shooting that took four precious lives just a week ago today, and left seven other people seriously wounded. The healing is hard.
I have to be in La Loche too, with several other federal and provincial cabinet ministers. I hope you will understand.
I can’t say enough about the tremendous job done by the first responders in that community — the RCMP, health workers and others — who not only responded rapidly to the initial crisis, but also helped maintain public safety and stability as the community reeled in shock.
Their jobs are so critical, and yet, too often, they do not have access to the resources and support systems necessary to help them cope with the trauma they experience in their jobs.
So today, you're here to talk about the very real problem of PTSD and what we can do to provide the support our first responders need.
I want thank the University of Regina for hosting us ... to begin an inclusive, national conversation about how we can better support those who risk their lives to protect us.
As many of you are aware, this University is at the forefront of academic research on the treatment of PTSD among public safety officers in Canada. You'll hear more about their work later on from their lead researcher, Dr. Nicholas Carleton.
Given the sometimes gruesome events public safety officers can witness or experience in their day-to-day work, we all know they are particularly susceptible to PTSD.
In terms of the extent of the problem, statistics drawn from a few key professions tell part of the story. It's estimated that 16 to 24 per cent of Canadian paramedics will be diagnosed with PTSD at some point in their careers.1
And we know many also suffer in silence — undiagnosed, and unsure of where to turn.
Not only does PTSD take a devastating toll on public safety officers themselves, it also affects their families and friends, the organizations in which they serve, and more broadly, the resilience of our communities.
For some, their symptoms subside over several weeks or months; but many others can struggle for years. And that can lead to secondary issues such as depression, anxiety or substance abuse.
As an MP, I've heard repeatedly from the public safety community that more needs to be done for those who are suffering ... and in the areas of education and prevention.
I have long felt that we need to do more for those we ask to stand in harm’s way to protect and keep Canadians safe.
As Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, I am pleased to be able to advance efforts to help them get what they so rightfully deserve — the highest level of support and care. I know you all share that passion.
We're all in this together. The Government of Canada cannot do it alone.
The development of a national action plan on PTSD must be rooted in an evidence-based, coordinated approach that involves all the impacted stakeholders.
We need the latest research. We need the personal experiences of those who do these difficult jobs. We must ensure our planning meets the needs of first responders who are on-call each and every day to protect us. And, we must have an open, inclusive conversation about PTSD, one that may help reduce the associated societal stigma.
I want to hear your most specific, practical advice.
What's in place now? What works and what doesn't? How can we build on success? What's the best way to achieve a coordinated, national action plan on PTSD to support the health and mental well-being of first responders?
Working with my colleague Jane Philpott, the federal Minister of Health, I have specific instructions from Prime Minister Trudeau to get on with this — in collaboration with all of you.
A government has no greater responsibility than ensuring the safety and security of its citizens. To fulfil that responsibility, we must cultivate a strong, healthy and resilient public safety community. First responders are in the forefront.
And a serious national action plan on PTSD will help us to help them to keep us all safe.
Thank you for your attention and your support.
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