A father and firefighter raised in Williams Lake who lost his battle with post-traumatic stress disorder was honoured in the House of Commons Friday, by his childhood friend Cariboo-Prince George MP Todd Doherty.
Choking back tears, Doherty rose in the house to pay tribute to Darren Anderson, who died Sept. 15.
“I receive messages or calls of another suicide everyday. Yesterday, the message I received was too close to home.” said Doherty, an outspoken advocate for first responders struggling with their mental health and PTSD.
“From his earliest years, all Darren wanted to be was a firefighter like his grandfather, his father and uncle. He wanted to be the best there was.”
Doherty said Anderson served 17 years with the Strathcona County Fire and Rescue Team, rose through the ranks to lieutenant and only 12 days ago competed and won bronze in the national fire fit challenge in his age category.
“Sadly seven days later Darren lost his battle with PTSD.”
Doherty described Anderson as a husband, father, son, friend and hero.
“Darren loved life. He loved his family and he loved his job.”
He said he spoke to Darren’s parents, Marlene and Gord Anderson, Thursday night and even though they are reeling over the loss of their son “their concern was for those left behind.”
“His friends, his family, his fire family, even the young paramedics who attended the Humboldt tragedy, they asked me to convey this message to his colleagues; Darren was so honoured and proud to be a part of the firefighting and first responder family. Please take care of one another. Take a moment to ask one another if they are OK. Please be well.”
Darren’s father Gord served 30 years as a volunteer with the Williams Lake Fire Department. Darren also served with the Williams Lake department before becoming a professional, full-time firefighter with the Strathcona County Fire and Rescue Team, outside of Edmonton.
“My heartfelt prayers go to Darren’s family, friends and the Strathcona County Fire and Rescue Team.”
First responders from across Alberta and B.C. have been extending their condolences to the family through social media.
Members of the Williams Lake Fire Department are also in contact with and supporting Dareen’s family in Williams Lake.
Strathcona County Acting Fire Chief Jeff Hutton also issued a formal statement Friday regarding’s Anderson’s death.
“Lt. Darren Anderson was a highly respected, valued and active leader in our emergency services family - and a large part of our entire community,” Hutton said.
“As we grieve, we are working closely with Lt. Anderson’s family to follow their wishes and tend to their needs as best we can. As Chief, my primary focus remains with the family’s needs and the needs of my first responders that I am responsible for.”
A GoFundMe Page has been set up and condolences and donations are pouring in for the family. The page has raised $74,229 in just three days for the family so far.
It reads; “On the night of Sept. 15th, 2018, the world lost a compassionate firefighter and EMT and a loving husband and father. He leaves behind his wife, Michelle, and three beautiful girls, who are left to cope as best they can.”
On his MP website, Doherty has dedicated a section to PTSD. The disorder, he explains, is a mental illness often involved with exposure to traumatic events that can involve serious injury, death threats, and death. It can be linked to ongoing emotional trauma.
The impacts of PTSD on first responders has become more widely known and recognized as Doherty has pushed for a national framework on PTSD. The Senate just passed Doherty’s Bill C-211 in June.
“Currently, there is no coordinated federal-provincial strategy that would expand the scope of support to ensure long-term solutions for those suffering from PTSD. Bill C-211 is what will ensure that we work toward a long-term set of best practices, statistical data and consistent terminology and education when dealing with PTSD and occupational stress injuries,” Doherty said.
Hutton said there continues to be work ahead to ensure supports are available for first responders, when they need it most.
“That will come, but for now, we thank our colleagues, extended first responder families, partners, friends and family for their condolences and support as we process our grief.”
If you would like to learn more about PTSD please visit MP Todd Doherty’s website.