In the aftermath of the Humboldt Broncos bus tragedy, one focus will be on recovering both physically and mentally.
Jennifer Chouinard, founder of PTSD Saskatchewan, said events like this can be very hard on first responders.
“We often tend to think of the traditional police, fire, paramedics but there’s so many more professionals involved in this, including the dispatchers having to dispatch who was going where and the trauma centre,” she explained.
There’s also emergency room doctors, nurses and social workers who are ready to receive patients.
In situations like this, one question is often asked. What can be done to prevent PTSD?
“It can be prevented. What’s important right now is that we realize that these are post-traumatic reactions that people are experiencing that are part of their human condition, not necessarily a mental health diagnoses,” Chouinard said.
A lot of times in these post-traumatic reactions, especially with an event of this level, people may experience symptoms of PTSD like nightmares, losing sleep, feeling unsafe, being hyper-vigilant and memory issues.
“Those look very much like PTSD but they’re part of who we are as humans and how we process things,” Chouinard said.
“We want to let people know that this is part of the human condition and even though it’s excruciating, it is normal. It’s how your body and your mind are going to work with being presented with a new reality because this is a new reality.”
According to Chouinard, community involvement is a big factor in fighting off PTSD.
“Feeling connected to your community and having a safe support network is one of the strongest protective factors we have against mental health issues. So engaging with your supports, engaging with your community, that’s going to go along in preventing any type of persistent mental health concerns,” she said.
Chouinard said an event like this can shake your sense of how you fit in the world and how safe you are. For parents, it’s how safe they feel sending their kids on any kind of trip.
“You got to wrap your brain around that and try to make sense of it and I don’t know the answer to that at this time, it’s a really difficult path to be on right now. I think it involves looking at the fact that you need to integrate a new worldview, you can’t un-ring a bell, things don’t go back to the way they were before this,” she said.
Chouinard said events like this will always stay with us so it will need to be integrated into how we move around in the world in the years to come.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect the correct wording of quotes.