Firefighter Kevin Webber remembers the time he responded to a call involving a five-month-old girl without vital signs.
Webber, who had a daughter the same age at home, was devastated when attempts to revive the infant failed.
He made it only a few steps out of the home before breaking down.
“I was really bummed and really rattled by this because it was like working on my own daughter,” Webber said.
“I just wasn’t right.”
He ended up taking six weeks off work to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): mental or emotional stress following severe psychological shock, such as exposure to trauma.
Now the 46-year-old Toronto fire captain is opening a residential therapy centre exclusively for first responders with PTSD, believed to be the first of its kind in Canada, in Southwestern Ontario at the end of the month.
Twenty-five per cent of paramedics, 17 per cent of firefighters and seven per cent of police officers have experienced PTSD, compared to nine per cent of the regular population, according to the Tema Conter Memorial Trust, a charity that raises awareness about first responders suffering from PTSD and advocates for better education and resources.