Newspaper article Fraser Coast Chronicle (Hervey Bay, Australia)

Lives out of Control; the Everyday Horrors of His Work Have Led This Paramedic to Speak out on Mental Health

Newspaper article Fraser Coast Chronicle (Hervey Bay, Australia)

Lives out of Control; the Everyday Horrors of His Work Have Led This Paramedic to Speak out on Mental Health

Article excerpt

Byline: REAL PEOPLE WORDS: PAUL SPINKS

I'm from Melbourne and started my working life as a commercial pilot. I came up to fly in Queensland and got involved with airline safety. Even then I was interested in people's behaviours, looking at accidents and why planes crash.

I did postgraduate studies in counselling and joined the Queensland Ambulance Service, where I've worked as an advanced care paramedic for 16 years.

It's surprising how what I learned in the aviation years followed through to ambulance work.

When you look at how the Swiss cheese holes line up for disasters to happen in flying, it's the same sort of formula for people's health. We have all these barriers that are supposed to stop all the holes lining up, but then the perfect storm comes along.

With people that can be the alcohol we're drinking five days a week, the Valium we're taking, what we're doing to ourselves in our lives. When I joined the ambulance, I imagined the work would be car accidents and trauma but that's only about five per cent of it. A lot of my work is just crawling through dysfunction: mental health, alcohol, drugs. So much of my work is about restoring calm, just trying to settle things down at another life atrocity.

There's a desperate message that needs to be told about mental health and the more I learned, the more I wanted to advocate on how we approach the issues. We've got a real crisis on our hands. When one in two of us are suffering from depression, and suicide is the leading cause of death for people aged between 15 and 44, this is mega.

There were 36 million prescriptions for antidepressant medication in Australia last year, the second highest rate in the world. Somehow we treat that as an acceptable norm. As a father of two kids, I say no, that's not OK. We need to be having the conversation about it, with our kids, partners, family, friends and work colleagues.

But it's not just about mental health, it's about physical health as well. …

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