Volunteer firefighter fights back against PTSD with podcast

Being exposed to trauma is a common occurrence for firefighters, but what isn’t common is talking about the effects those traumas can have.

That’s what inspired volunteer firefighter Sean Conohan from New Minas, N.S. to create a monthly podcast called “UpTalk”.

“UpTalk, up for positivity, talk because we have to talk. The main goal of it is to bring education and conversation about the subject,” Conohan said.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness that’s caused by exposure to trauma. It’s a disorder that never used to be discussed in fire halls.

“You never talked about it. I can remember my first motor vehicle accident on [Highway] 101, you went back to the truck, came to the station, went home, you never talked about,” said Capt. Doug Pynch.

The Brooklyn Volunteer Fire Department has close to 90 members and Chief Andy McDade says PTSD has  affected many of them.

“Right now here in our station we have seven members that have been diagnosed with PTSD and are receiving treatment at this time, including myself,” said McDade.

One captain at the station is currently off of work with PTSD. She says volunteer firefighters struggle to seek help because they don’t have any coverage for their medical costs.

She wasn’t comfortable being on camera, but she still wanted her voice to be heard.

“There needs to be a path to treatment specifically for volunteer firefighters. Right now if we go and get treatment on our own, it’s upwards of 185 dollars an hour,” she said.

Conohan’s hope is that having more conversations can help save lives.

“I mean 2015, 39 first responders and 12 medical professionals died due to suicide. That is shocking and totally unnecessary,” Conohan said.

For more information on the podcast you can visit the UpTalk Facebook page.

In Harm’s Way: The PTSD crisis among Canada’s first responders