Dealing with the Unthinkable
calendar icon April 24th, 2018
author icon Kim Slade
Dealing with the Unthinkable

I was sitting in a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) workshop in Kingston yesterday with the WSIB and Fire Service representatives from Vaughn, Kitchener and Kingston when the news came across my BlackBerry. It was actually an announcement from our office building saying that Yonge Street was closed due to a collision.  I immediately opened Google and started searching for more information on the “accident on Yonge Street”. When I realized what had happened I was filled with shock, horror and deep feelings of sadness for the victims, their families, witnesses and the first responders, healthcare workers, doctors and nurses. We are not accustomed to this type of event. It was the first beautiful day of spring, and I knew that droves of people would be out on busy Yonge Street enjoying the warm of the sun after this seemingly long winter.


As there are many businesses in the area – ours included – I wanted to share steps that employers, supervisors and coworkers can take to help those who witnessed the collision at Yonge and Finch, or other similar traumatic events. These tips can also be used to support first responders and healthcare personnel who provide care to victims and their families.


  • It can be difficult for people to share or talk about these events, but keep the communication lines open. Ask how you or other team members can provide support. If they aren’t ready to talk, wait for them to open up or encourage them to talk to someone they trust about what has happened. This could be family, friends, a manager or supervisor, or a peer support team if your organization has this available. If they do start to share, don’t interrupt them and listen intently.
  • Help the worker access support and resources if they request or require assistance, and provide information about the options your workplace has to support the worker, such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) or Employee and Family Assistance Programs (EFAP).
  • Share with the worker that the range of emotions that they may be experiencing is a normal reaction. Provide information about signs and symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and when they should speak to a professional or seek additional help. You can find more information here.


Traumatic events can be very difficult to understand and process. As an employer, you can use the following statements to communicate with workers, supervisors and managers on how to manage their feelings following a tragic event. These tips come from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Mental Health Information Centre. While they were designed to help civilians who volunteer during disaster relief, these talking points are relevant for all traumatic events.


  • No one who sees a traumatic event is untouched by it.
  • It is normal to feel sadness, grief and anger about what happened and what you saw.
  • It is natural to feel anxious about your safety or the safety of those who are important to you.
  • Acknowledge your feelings, it will help you move forward more quickly.
  • Everyone has different needs and different ways of coping. This is normal.
  • It is healthy to reach out for and accept help if you need it.


I’d like to close by thanking our first responders and healthcare providers for their quick response, tireless work and continued efforts in caring for and supporting all those affected by the incident at Yonge Street and Finch Avenue on April 23. We are fortunate and proud to live and work in this vibrant city, and, together, we remain resilient and strong.


A reminder that TEMA’s peer support and family assistance line is available at 1-888-288-8036.

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