A YOUNG woman has told her "brave" story on national television, hoping it helps another person avoid the heartbreak she has gone through.

Kim, an audience member on the ABC's Q&A program, told the panel on Monday night that her father Tony had recently taken his own life.

The Newcastle-based paramedic with 28 years' experience was stressed by the pressures of his job and using the highly addictive opioid pain killer fentanyl.

"A little over a month ago he took his own life while at work," she said. "We understand now that Dad was using fentanyl at work to cope with the stress of on-the-job trauma, as well as assault."

Tony's story is sadly not unique. Ambulance officers have been telling their stories of trauma in recent months after a number of well-documented assaults.

But Kim said her father should've received help. She said warning signs that something was wrong were ignored.

"Can you tell us what you found in your dad's locker when you went in there after his death?" host Tony Jones asked her.

"We found huge amounts of correspondence between my dad and various members of New South Wales Ambulance management, correspondence that were complaints my dad had made, saying that the men and women out there were having trouble … and that it needed to change.

"Most of (the notes) were from my dad saying that he had gotten no response. Or that the response he was given wasn't adequate."

Kim said her father suggested paramedics could be given more information before they go to a job.

"One of the biggest stresses we've heard is that these paramedics don't have any idea what they're going to and it's one of the biggest anxieties because they could be going to deliver a baby or something wonderful, or they could be walking into a home where there's a man waiting with a serrated knife, which is the incident my dad went to."

Panellist Jim Nolan, a Liberal Senator for NSW, said "some of the trauma the ambos see and the police see and they live with for a long period of time is pretty horrendous and it must wear you down".

Another panellist, rector at the Gosford Anglican Church, Rod Bower, said Kim's family should never have had to go through such a horrible event.

"I've spent a lot of time in emergency departments, waiting for families to turn up and often I'm standing there talking to the ambos and hearing a lot of their stories.

"And these ambos really care. I often see them come back in on their next shift, just to see how that patient got on. So they're really connected. Sometimes they spend hours and hours and hours standing beside the gurney, waiting in triage."

Kim said she hopes to change the culture, particularly in New South Wales.

"I think we need to look less at how we can prevent (paramedics) from taking the drugs and more at why are they trying to take them. That comes down to them not being supported properly on the job. Not being given the opportunity to properly seek out help in a way that they don't feel ashamed.

"I suppose on to that point we need to build that culture that it is acceptable for these men and women to get help and that comes from management and it's not being done at the moment."

Social media lit up with messages of support for Kim. Most said her dad would be proud and that she was a powerful advocate for him after his death.

If you or somebody you know needs help, phone lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au



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