Paramedic finds peace in music after mental turmoil

Paramedic and singer/songwriter Nicholas Hennink speaks at Parkland Ambulance. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

Jayda Noyes, Daily Herald

Moose Jaw paramedic visits Prince Albert for emergency services music project

For advanced care paramedic Nicholas Hennink, years of seeing death and trauma accumulated into an addiction crisis.

His road to recovery inspired him to travel across Saskatchewan and visit emergency services departments.

He came to Prince Albert on Wednesday, taking time to meet with paramedics, firefighters, police officers and corrections officers.

Also a singer and songwriter, Hennink took a photo of Parkland Ambulance and Communications with a banner reading ‘We are Warriors’ prior to his debut album’s release in 2019, which is in partnership with Nebulus Entertainment.

He said his style is emotional rock, describing the pain and need for support for workers in emergency services.

“It’s an amazing job. Let me start with that. There is a certain amount of reward that you get from this job that you don’t get anywhere else,” said Hennink.

But, he explained, witnessing traumatic events every day can lead to mental health issues.

“When you start dealing with the stressors, you start dealing with depression. When you start dealing with depression, you try to cope with it and a lot of the times it turns into isolation or drinking or other factors,” he said.

“I found myself in a really dark place a couple years ago and I was one of those guys that isolated myself and it led to a coping mechanism with alcohol.”

After landing in rehabilitation, Hennink overcame his addiction.

All of the donations and proceeds from his songs, music video and merchandise goes to Operational Stress Injuries Canada (OSICan).

“I don’t want anything for myself out of this project, I really don’t…The only thing I wanna do is help,” he said.

The music video for the song ‘Warriors,’ being released on Dec. 1, gives viewers a glimpse into what it’s like to work in emergency services.

Hennink said it follows EMS, fire and police responding to a car crash caused by impaired driving. One teenager passes away, but the other is still alive and must be extricated.

“The whole thing is just the process that emergency services have to go through to help one patient and they can see what it’s all about,” he said. “You can see there’s a lot involved with just extricating one patient. Now just imagine if there was five.”

He’s also a CBC Saskatchewan Future 40 winner. The campaign highlights 40 people in the province under 40-years-old making a difference.

“It makes me feel like my work is doing some good in this world,” he said.

Director of public affairs for Parkland Ambulance, Lyle Karasiuk, was happy to have Hennink come and reiterate the importance of getting help.

“I’ve got a 31-year-old career and I’ll admit (mental health) wasn’t something you talked about,” he said.

Nicholas Hennink (left) and Lyle Karasiuk (right) pose during their visit for Hennink’s ‘Project Warriors.’ (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

Karasiuk explained they use a multi-pronged approach for all of their employees to deal with mental health including reaching out to coworkers, debriefing and then directing them to outside support systems.

They also bring in guest speakers for self-care workshops and have a bulletin board with tips for meals and exercising.

In recent team-building exercises where employees met one-on-one with the chief, Karasiuk said the topic of mental health arose many times.

“They are asking the questions and I applaud them for taking that step to make it namesake because now mental health is just (like) I’ve got a headache or a cold,” he said.

Hennink has also met with services in Regina, Saskatoon and Moose Jaw and plans to go to Weyburn and Estevan.

To donate, visit OSICan’s website.