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Paramedic Nat

A Blog About My Mental Health Journey

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communications

Dr. Blair Bigham

On this episode of BrainStorm: I chat with Dr. Blair Bigham about evidence-based communication and how it can help to alleviate suffering. 

Connect with Blair:

Twitter: @BlairBigham

Facebook: @blairbigham

Website: blairbigham.com

 

Pre-order my New Book: Here

Get Save My Life School: Here

 

BrainStorm by Natalie Harris is proudly produced by PodcastWagon.com

 

Toronto Eaton Centre Book Signing

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Former Simcoe County and Peel Region paramedic turned author, Natalie Harris, pens raw and honest memoir about her battle with PTSD, depression, addiction and suicide titled Save-My-Life School, ISBN 978-1-894813-91-4.

In 2012, Harris attended a grizzly double murder that caused her to spiral into a challenging battle with mental illness. As part of her recovery, she started a blog that has since had almost 200,000 hits and grabbed the attention of Canada’s favourite Olympian and mental health advocate, Clara Hughes who wrote the Foreword for this title.

Clara Hughes writes, “There is no one audience for Natalie’s writings; I truly feel she writes for us all.”

Harris’s book, Save-My-Life School expands on her recovery process, giving a real-life glimpse into the mind and thoughts of someone suffering with mental illness. In the second week after its release this January, the book reached the #2 spot on the Amazon.ca Kindle Store’s “Hot New Memoir List,” one spot ahead of Anderson Cooper’s The Rainbow Comes.

Harris will be at the Eaton Centre Indigo, April 3rd for a book signing from 6 – 8 p.m.

For more information or to book media appearances, please contact:
Heather Down (PR Manager)
Heather.down@live.com

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Coffee Talk with WSIB

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I am about to broach a sensitive subject. Retired paramedic Mindy Piva and I had the opportunity to have coffee with the Vice President and Executive Director of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) today. The informal meeting was extremely positive and productive – this is where I’m am expecting the ‘sensitivity’ of this subject to emerge. Today I am going to share a story of progress, and by doing so Mindy and I want to be very clear that this is not to ignore the pain and hardships of the past. We want want to encourage hope, and share how change is happening, but while always acknowledging the losses so many families have, and still continue to face. We also want to share our gratitude for all the other voices on this mission with us!

For many years the letters ‘WSIB’ and the words ‘positive’ and ‘productive’ have rarely crossed paths in the same sentence. After personally reading dozens of impact statements and hearing hundreds of stories about the losses so many of our first responder family members have experienced after battling to have a psychological injury claim approved, (some which I myself have experienced) I have extreme empathy with regards to all aspects of this subject. With that being said, Mindy and I are going to do our best to move forward with a positive voice, and be extremely grateful for the opportunity provided to us today.

Bill 163- Ontario’s First Responder’s Bill, has opened the doors to obtaining the help so many first responders need. In my opinion, one of the most important things this Bill has done is prompt necessary discussion about the reality of psychological injuries. Stigma is lessening, and awareness campaigns are in full swing. This is amazing! But now one year later there is definitely lots more work to do.

Today, Mindy and I shared the following suggestions and information:

  • We recommended Mental Health First Aid training for every case manager in order to improve sympathetic communication skills with often vulnerable, acutely injured  first responders.
  • We recommended the implementation of first responders as consultants to aid in the translation of cultural lingo and language in order to lessen the number of potential anxiety-producing phone calls in the early stages of a claim.
  • We recommended the provision of peer-support contact information (external from the first responder’s employer/service) as soon as a claim has been made.
  • We shared detailed information about triggers and symptoms in which someone without a psychological injury would not be able to fully comprehend.
  • We shared that specialized earplugs should be a compensateable expense.
  • We discussed the possibility of receiving funding to initiate a peer support evidence-based study. (And provided contact information of professionals who we feel could implement this).
  • We discussed the importance of providing structured peer-support to the WSIB case managers themselves.
  • We discussed MP Todd Doherty’s Federal PTSD Bill C-211, and how we felt that it was necessary to implement our suggestions in order to lead the way with respect to modelling a comprehensive and successful provincial psychological claims process.
  • We discussed the development of a formal committee to allow for other first responder’s and services to share their progressive suggestions.

I am firm believer in the quote by Martin Luther King Jr.,”Love is the only force capable of changing an enemy into a friend”. And on the eve of the presentation of Canada’s PTSD Framework Bill, Mindy and I are happy to go to sleep knowing that friend’s were made today, and that even though it many not be easy sometimes, positive change is always possible.

Book Launch Jan 25th!

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FROM THE PUBLISHER
This intense and engaging memoir is based on the true-life of Natalie Harris. Mental illness, post-traumatic stress injury, overdoses and addiction are some of the demons this paramedic-turned-author deals with–stemming from a horrific double-murder call. This incredible story makes public the very private battles many face. This book is raw, honest and a window into the mind of someone facing mental illness. Although a serious topic, this biography is at times laugh-out-loud funny, poignant and simply a good, entertaining read. This is a must-have for anyone who wants a cover-to-cover book that keeps you on the edge of your seat. To me, it is a Bridget Jones’ Diary meets Girl Interrupted.

THE AUDIENCE
Obviously, this title will appeal to first responders such as paramedics, firefighters and police officers. However, this title will also be of interest to those suffering with or suffering beside people experiencing mental illnesses and/or addiction. In Canada alone, there are 4.5 million people with mental illnesses.

COMPARABLE TITLE
Last year, Jody Mitic released Unflinching: The Making of a Canadian Sniper. Like Natalie’s book, Jody’s had a specific audience as well as widespread interest. His book touched on PTSD; and akin to Natalie, he worked in a field with a very unique culture.
ENDORSEMENTS

Natalie and her writing are highly supported and endorsed by many people with influence. The foreword is written by six-time Olympian, Clara Hughes. In addition, all three levels of government officials have written endorsements for the book. This includes, Arif Khan, Barrie City Council, Ann Hogarth, MPP, and John Brassard, MP.

Link to Book on Indigo:
https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/…/sa…/9781894813914-item.html

You can also preorder at winterticklepress.com

Bill 163: Ontario Supporting First Responder’s Bill

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April 5th, 2016 will always be a day to remember! Seven years of fighting by SO MANY amazing people (of which I was only part of for 2 years) for the recognition of the toll our careers take on our mental health. There’s LOTS more work to be done.

Stay tuned for an upcoming article in the Canadian Paramedicine magazine documenting the time line of the PTSD Bill’s past seven years, and of the fight that Toronto Advanced Care Paramedic Shannon Bertrand so bravely started so that April 5th, 2016 could one day become a reality.

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Thank you to the Barrie Examiner

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http://www.thebarrieexaminer.com/2016/04/06/paramedics-laud-ptsd-legislation

This Is Only the Beginning…

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It may seem weird, as Bill 163 (The Protecting Ontario’s First Responders Bill) isn’t technically passed until tomorrow, but I wanted to talk about how this accomplishment is only a piece of the puzzle when it comes to protecting and fighting for the mental health and well being of ALL of our healthcare providers across Canada!

I have read a few posts today with regards to how Bill 163 should not pass yet because it doesn’t include certain workplace mental health injuries or healthcare professions. And while I certainly encourage discussion of the expansion of legislation in order to protect the greatest number of individuals, I DO NOT support the delay of this Bill. For a few reasons:

I do agree that there are members of our peer community that should be included in this Bill. In fact, that is why my Wings of Change Peer Support Group is all inclusive. However… I am very wary of delaying a Bill that WILL help so many immediately. People are dying and I know of MANY people who desperately need this Bill NOW. There are other legislations in the works as we speak that have the opportunity to address a broader spectrum of peers, but the world of politics is slow because so many legislations are being brought forward every day.

I will not stand by and see another peer battle PTSD without hope. I will not stand by and learn that my peer can’t afford their mortgage and needs to go bankrupt. I certainly will not stand by to hear another family cry when they learn that the demons of PTSD have taken their loved one away from them forever. That is why I do not support any delay of this Bill.

I wish our fellow healthcare provider peers didn’t feel ‘left behind’ in Bill 163’s process. The fact of the matter is that politics and legislations are not easy to steer, and at this moment we need to celebrate that Bill 163 is a blessing that will save lives. But rest assured, there is a bigger fight happening already. I am a stakeholder in Bill C-211 which is the Federal PTSD Bill, and I will be fighting to include ALL healthcare providers in this legislation.

If you would like to join me in this next fight, feel free to send me a message. ALL voices are imperative in order to keep this positive mental health momentum going!

Bill 163 is just the beginning, (and a great one at that). But the Canadian Government hasn’t heard the last of me yet 😀

 

Uncomfortable, Not Impossible

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Throughout my recovery, I have battled with many uncomfortable feelings. But that shouldn’t be a surprise to me as while I was at Homewood Rehabilitation Hospital, I learned that this is an unavoidable battle while healing from any addiction, because addicts numb their feelings for so long causing any feeling to be uncomfortable. In fact, not wanting to feel is quite literally why many people become addicts in the first place!- We hated uncomfortable feelings, and when one came along…we knew how to numb it…so we did. And with time, not wanting to feel anything, ever, slowly becomes part of our daily life. So much so that the guarantee that suicide brings of never feeling anything again becomes a VERY real, (and in our deluded minds practical) option.

I am one of the lucky ones, because I have mentors who love me and encourage me to keep moving forward when uncomfortable feelings rear their ugly heads. My sister in law Mandy is the most important mentor of this kind. She is SO wise, and knows that I still need to feel  uncomfortable feelings to some level in order to let it pass and to see that I am still ok…and maybe even stronger than I was before.

She has a talent for teaching through listening long enough to show myself that I had the answer and strength to get through my worry in the first place, (insert the Good Witch saying to Dorothy: “You always had the power to go home, you just needed to learn it for yourself”) …and listening that attentively is no easy task when I’m trying to explain my worries – Allow me to elaborate. I may be able to get a thought or two in order when I write, but I am as organized as a Walmart on Boxing Day when it comes to talking about my concerns. I usually fumble my way through a story that starts in the middle, backs up to the beginning, goes off topic and then at some point finally resumes to get to where I originally was headed in the first place…Sigh. And rather than jump in with her personal advice right away, my sister in law listens, supports and reiterates what I am saying, and by doing so, I seem to get to an answer for the most part on my own. She’s sort of like…magic!

So when I was extremely nervous about going back on the road as a paramedic for three months before I entered into the training coordinator position, she always let me talk, hear myself, and see that some things may be uncomfortable, but they are not impossible! She never let me walk away from an opportunity, but at the same time she never told me what to do. She was able to see past my worries, and had faith that I could too. And after every conversation that started with, “I’m not sure I want to go to work tonight”, I would always find myself putting on my uniform and battling my inner reluctance and doubt, because I knew that no matter what happened, there was a wonderful opportunity waiting for me at the end. Was it easy, no. Was it worth it, yes!

Recovery is tough, and yes we all have limits and healthy boundaries to enforce in order to heal. Ie: it may not have been a healthy option for another person to go back on the road as a paramedic even for one shift. But I pray that everyone can find a Mandy in their life, and be given the opportunity to learn what is possible when we get through uncomfortable.

 

March-Mullet Madness!

My daughter and I were fortunate enough to participate in a fundraiser for the Canadian Mental Health Association yesterday. The event was all about…wait for it…MULLETS! Yes, business in the front, party in the back, mullets.

It was held at a beautiful wine and art store called Canvas and Cabernet. I had OJ, cran and soda…but none the less it was a lot of fun watching everyone paint their artistic version of a mullet. I chose to put mine on a sugar skull 😉

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I want to thank the radio station Rock 95 and their fabulous DJ Ozz, for inviting me and for being such an amazing mental health advocate! Barrie is so lucky to have you.

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And to Liz Grummet and Jim Harris from the Canadian Mental Health Association (Simcoe County Branch) for organizing the event and for really putting Barrie’s CMHA on the ‘mental health awareness’ map.

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And to my beautiful daughter for always supporting me and this mental health awareness journey I am on. I am SO proud of you! <3 You are always a wonderful date.

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Stay tuned for more upcoming events! So far I will be travelling to Ottawa and Nova Scotia over the summer.  Let’s let this amazing mental health momentum keep on keeping on!

Love ~Nat

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