First responders gather at Manitoba legislature to honour late firefighter

Manitoba lawmakers are standing in solidarity with the family of a Winnipeg firefighter who died by suicide.

Prior to the first session of the spring sitting at the Manitoba legislature Monday, the province honoured the memory of Preston Heinbigner, 40, who died April 9.

Hundreds of first responders attended to offer their support.

“First responders are there for Manitobans during an emergency and over time, that takes a toll on their mental health,” said Waverley MLA David Pankratz — himself a Winnipeg firefighter and former paramedic prior to running for office.

“The tragic death of Winnipeg firefighter Preston Heinbigner has only highlighted the need for more support for our first responders.

“I know first-hand how tough being a firefighter and paramedic can be on your mental health. We need to continue to reduce the stigma around post-traumatic stress and remove barriers for people to access support.”

Story continues below advertisement

Premier Wab Kinew said Monday his government is dedicating three counsellors to provide mental health supports specifically for local firefighters, paramedics and law enforcement — what he called an initial step toward strengthening support resources.

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg’s first responders need more mental health support, destigmatization: advocates'

Winnipeg’s first responders need more mental health support, destigmatization: advocates

United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg (UFFW) president Tom Bilous told 680 CJOB’s Connecting Winnipeg that even before this tragedy, more awareness was being shone on the issue, but there’s still work to be done.

The latest health and medical news emailed to you every Sunday.

“We can’t ride our rigs with a broken hip — you do get immediate medical attention if you get a broken hip… but you can work for years with a troubled mind. And it can be really troubled, as we’re learning here,” he said.

“In Preston’s face we cannot fathom what he was carrying behind his eyes. On the surface, to a lot of us, he was happy go-lucky, a beautiful family, beautiful wife, successful… all of those things.

Story continues below advertisement

“But obviously there was a going on… we have to get better at addressing the stigma, letting people speak freely and reach out for help, and heeding that.”

Click to play video: 'Constant fires running Winnipeg’s firefighters ragged, union says'

Constant fires running Winnipeg’s firefighters ragged, union says

&© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.