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Paramedic needs your help

Luscious locks: Don Gillies, Mirboo North paramedic, is shaving his head to raise awareness of paramedic suicide. Show support for Mr Gillies by donating at www.gofundme.com/shave-to-remember.

PARAMEDICS see some horrific things; things that regular people are lucky not to see, and those whose goal is to help people are often unable to help themselves.

On January 30, Don Gillies, Mirboo North’s paramedic team manager, will shave his extra long hair to raise awareness of paramedic suicide.

At the same time he will be raising funds for the charity beyondblue. Mr Gillies has dedicated the last 31 years to serving his community as a paramedic.

Mr Gillies said the primary reason he is shaving his head is to bring attention to the issue of paramedic suicide.

“Nearly a year ago, I was at a funeral for a colleague and friend, which was about 12 months after another suicide of a friend,” he said.

“I thought, I don’t want to do this again, so I began thinking about what I could do.

“The group beyondblue was mentioned and I thought okay, I can shave and raise money for the charity at the same time.

“If we do this, it will highlight the issue of suicide among paramedics and get people to talk about it. It is also a beyondblue fundraiser, to help support anybody who is suffering.”

Mr Gillies said the event would also help to promote internal ambulance programs such as stress management and resilience tools, or SMART.

“The idea of that program is it is a proactive approach to improving psychological wellbeing. Paramedics can sit down with a psychologist, have a chat, and go through a series of test processes,” he said.

“They can find out how they are going, if there are areas in which they need to de-stress a little and are given exercises to help.

“The idea is to recognise in yourself where you are and whether you are travelling okay.

“Another internal program is the Maners model, where we look after each other by recognising situations where stressors are involved, such a serious accident and we take the appropriate steps.”

Mr Gillies said emergency service workers are over represented statistically in suicide and during his career of 30 years as an ambulance paramedic, 10 of his colleagues have committed suicide.

“It is hard to pin it down, but the nature of the work that they perform could definitely contribute to the incidences of suicide,” he said.

“You can’t categorically say it is directly related to work, but it would be naive to say it was not part of it.

“People who tend to become paramedics and stay are very giving people and are passionate about what they do. It just does gradually build up and it can be quite insidious.

“That is where the SMART program comes in, to try and get people to look at where they are and find out how they are feeling.”

The donation site www.gofundme.com/shave-to-remember has been live for just over a week and so far has received just over $4000 in donations.

“I have set a goal of $10,000. The response so far has been amazing and so humbling. First of all, I was like, I hope I raise $1000, then I thought $5000, but who knows.

“Yes, I am doing it to deal with our internal issues, but it also does affect society generally,” Mr Gillies said.

“My thought with this is that I will never know if it makes a difference, but if by shaving my head and helping people to talk about it, if somewhere down the track it helps just one person step away from the edge, then it will be worth it.

“But I will never know.”

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=6147

Posted by on Jan 22 2013. Filed under Featured, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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