You can’t pour from an empty cup.
It’s a simple saying but it’s a message to be heeded, especially if you’re a first responder, says Nicholas Hennink.
Hennink has worked as an advanced care paramedic in Saskatchewan for the last 15 years, with Moose Jaw EMS for the last five. During that time he has seen a lot of trauma. After suffering in silence for a time, he is now openly sharing his struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A few years ago, his struggle took its toll on his mental health. At the time, Hennink described his mental state as being in “a dark place.” His PTSD led him into depression and then, addiction. Finally, he sought help and admitted himself into a rehabilitation facility. Thankfully, his employers were understanding and supportive and Hennink is now back to work full-time.
“Yes, I’ve been to the mental health ward, but I made it out. So now I want to commit my life and my talents by helping other first responders,” he says.
(centre) is celebrating the work of first responders and encouraging them to
seek mental health help when it’s necessary. Profits from Hennink’s latest
music video “Warrior” will be donated to the Occupational
Stress Injury Canada. Photo courtesy Nicholas Hennink Music.
Today, Hennink focuses his energy on Project Warrior, a campaign dedicated to raising awareness and funds for first responders who are seeking help.
Project Warrior is currently endorsed by the Saskatchewan Health Authority, the Canadian Mental Health Association, and Saskatchewan Emergency Medical Services Association.
To raise awareness about the realities of the job and fundraise for the campaign, Hennink has been photographing Saskatchewan first responders and other health care employees and spotlighting them on his Facebook page, Nicholas Hennink Music.
“It’s great to meet people from different services. What’s so interesting is that really, all of our experiences are the same. We feel the same; we deal with the same trauma just in different environments. So we’re all just a big family. I think we know that and we need to be there for each other because we do struggle.”
Hennink is also a singer, song-writer and has been recording music based on his experiences. He’s using his talents to raise funds for the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).
His latest song, “Warrior,” includes a video featuring a traumatic car crash in which injured patients are played by actors, but the first responders are real. “I just want to show people what we do . . . I just want there to be a better awareness,” he says.
All the profits from the single go to Occupational Stress Injury Canada, which supports first responders and their families and is part of the CMHA.
Hennink is hoping his personal story and Project Warrior will raise awareness amongst the general public and inspire other first responders to ask for help if they find themselves struggling.
“We’re getting there. When I was going through it, I was very scared to come out, scared of what people would think of me, that they might look down on me, but talking about it is good because you can see the strength in people and not see it as a weakness. It takes a lot to come out and say that I was struggling. It took everything in me.”