Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has today led a member’s business debate to raise the issue of trauma recovery and support for first responders and call for the Scottish Government to bring forward a national first responder trauma recovery strategy which will ensure that anyone caught up in, or witness to, a traumatic event is given the support that they need.
Mr Cole-Hamilton was approached by his constituent Andy Cunningham, who works at the national risk and resilience centre, the Scottish Ambulance Service’s major incidents unit.
Describing how he felt when retrieved the body of a young woman at Leith Docks, which made him realise he needed help, Mr Cunningham said:
“I felt nothing. No feeling at all at the time other than I nearly lost her trying to hook the body in. That night I reflected on why I'd become so numb to death. I had seen hundreds of dead people and by that time I'd lost my father, two close friends and a cousin to suicide so I knew what I was feeling wasn't right.
“I felt so numb, so alone and it didn't feel good. I knew it wasn't normal for one human to feel nothing for another and that's when I knew I needed to speak to someone. I was lucky, in that I took some time off, found a counsellor that listened and helped with my perspective so that in time I was able to return to work.
“I still see that young girl’s body every day and will do for the rest of my life. Others aren't so lucky. They are so traumatised by what they see, they are broken. They are broken for life but the lucky ones survive.
“Remember that 1 in 4 ambulance responders have considered ending their own lives. They have dark thoughts to make the pain and trauma disappear. This cannot continue. We need to care for the carers.”
Alex Cole-Hamilton said:
“Andy Cunningham’s story is immensely powerful. It highlights the pressure our first responders are under day in day out.
“The Scottish Government need to hear his testimony and invest in delivering a national first responder trauma recovery strategy, which will ensure that anyone caught up in, or witness to, a traumatic event is given the support that they need.”