Paramedic Nat

A Blog About a Paramedic's Mental Health Journey



’13 Reasons Why’ – My Review

I am at the Canadian Mental Health Association Suicide Prevention Conference in beautiful Orillia, Ontario, and I thought what a perfect time to share my thoughts on the widely talked about series, ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’, which is based on the events leading up to a teenager’s suicide. For those of you who haven’t watched this series yet, this post will be a spoiler – so alert! This post also speaks very candidly about suicidal ideation and may be a trigger for some.

The basic premise of the show is that a girl who is in high school dies by suicide and leaves a series of cassette tapes for various friends to listen to, to show them the ways in which they played a role in her death – thirteen ways to be exact. When I heard about this show I was happy that teenage suicide would be discussed in a medium that most teens are very familiar with – Netflix. And I was hopeful that it would be a realistic portrayal of the dark world in which the minds of those with suicidal ideation live in. My overall review however is that I am very disappointed.

Let me preface the following comments with a reminder that these are my thoughts alone. My perspective and my opinion – as a suicide survivor.

What I didn’t like about the show (beyond the horrible acting) was that it focused primarily on the main character, Hannah’s, vengeful personality rather than the darkness that mental illness would have forced her to experience prior to her death. The writers share details about horrible trauma she experiences (which quite often is a predetermining factor for mental illness which leads to death by suicide), but beyond the traumatic details each episode reveals, the show falls short of effectively bringing the viewer inside her mind – the mind of suicidal ideation.

The plot’s main focus is on the reveal of Hannah’s vengeful tapes. Episode after episode her angry voice tells her friends how they directly played a role in her death causing them to conspire against each other so that the ‘blame’ doesn’t land on themselves. Yes, the slow unraveling of lies and coverup’s make for a great TV series drama, but there is so much more to the story of a teenaged girl who dies by suicide – so much more than the spitefulness the writer’s focused on.

From what I have come to learn from experience, is that a person who encounters trauma may in fact go through a stage of wanting to seek revenge, but when the stage of death by suicide is reached, the individual is so deeply trapped in a world of hopelessness, and is suffocated by relentless distorted thinking that their mind literally doesn’t have the cognitive ‘space’ for the thought of revenge any longer. At the point when a person dies by suicide, their mind convinces them that they, and their family would be better off dead for any number of reasons why – sadly this list of reasons could go on ad infinitum. At this point their mind which has been imprisoned by mental illness’s cell-walls only thinks of how to be freed from it’s pain. At this point, darkness has seeped into their veins, making it physically impossible to see anything but death.

Graphic detail alert. In the very last episode the main character dies after bleeding out because she cuts her wrists. In reference to this scene, I feel that it was the writers responsibility to show how the knife represents a life-threatening illness that won. Sadly, I feel the writers made the knife seem like a choice in her hand.

Yes, ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’, continued the important discussion about teenage suicide, but I feel it dropped the ball on its chance to invoke conversation about mental illness. And if they had done the latter, they would have made an important step towards making sure that this sentence wouldn’t be confusing to anyone.


To Clara, With Love


January 28, 2014 – Bell Let’s Talk Day. I was sitting in my living room watching TV with family members when Canadian Olympian Clara Hughes came onto the screen. I had definitely seen her before. I remember literally sitting on the edge of my seat cheering her on as she won medal after medal in both the winter and summer games. She represented so much strength and courage. She was OUR Canadian athlete! – And she had made us so proud! I wasn’t sure right away why she was on the news that night, but it was no coincidence that I was watching, because as she began to talk and share about her mental health struggles, I felt a sudden, incredible feeling of validation and rare happiness. Olympian Clara Hughes had been battling a dark road of depression, as I had been, and suddenly after hearing her speak, I knew that one day I would share my story too.

Oct 6, 2014 – The the first time I ever shared anything publicly about my dark world. I started a blog, and this is what I wrote.

Hi Everyone,

This is a big deal for me. This first blog will be short; but to me its HUGE. I’ve been battling a mental health illness and I feel it’s time to talk about it; but it’s not easy. Let me start by saying, today is the first day of my partial hospitalization mental health program. I have a long road ahead of me, which started years ago. I want to share it with you and possibly help anyone who has been battling a mental health illness with a stigma so big it often keeps our minds closed to the pain these illnesses cause.

Stay tuned if you would like. I will be posting often.


Fast forward to today, March 28, 2017, and I have developed a friendship with that same amazing Canadian Olympian, Clara Hughes. She has written the foreword to my book Save-My-Life School, and after she sent me this (among many) shout-out, this is what I replied.

Dear Clara, ❤

I can say without a doubt that this book would never have even be even a figment of my imagination if I had not seen you on TV a few years back honestly sharing about your mental health journey!

YOU made vulnerability something beautiful to me!

YOU showed me that I didn’t need to hide anymore, and that every time I shared my own journey, stigma would melt away from me – and it did.

YOU encouraged me through messages and emails when I was battling the darkness that still grabs a hold of me sometimes.

YOU told me to never stop – and I won’t.

Over time my posts may lessen and my voice may not be as loud, but by inspiring me to have the courage to put my heart and soul into Save-My-Life School, my message will never be gone.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you. You are such a wonderful friend ❤

Sending you SO MUCH LOVE.

~Nat xo




Here’s to many more years of friendship! Love you dearly Clara! XO

Toronto Eaton Centre Book Signing


Former Simcoe County and Peel Region paramedic turned author, Natalie Harris, pens raw and honest memoir about her battle with PTSD, depression, addiction and suicide titled Save-My-Life School, ISBN 978-1-894813-91-4.

In 2012, Harris attended a grizzly double murder that caused her to spiral into a challenging battle with mental illness. As part of her recovery, she started a blog that has since had almost 200,000 hits and grabbed the attention of Canada’s favourite Olympian and mental health advocate, Clara Hughes who wrote the Foreword for this title.

Clara Hughes writes, “There is no one audience for Natalie’s writings; I truly feel she writes for us all.”

Harris’s book, Save-My-Life School expands on her recovery process, giving a real-life glimpse into the mind and thoughts of someone suffering with mental illness. In the second week after its release this January, the book reached the #2 spot on the Kindle Store’s “Hot New Memoir List,” one spot ahead of Anderson Cooper’s The Rainbow Comes.

Harris will be at the Eaton Centre Indigo, April 3rd for a book signing from 6 – 8 p.m.

For more information or to book media appearances, please contact:
Heather Down (PR Manager)


I’m A Bell Let’s Talk Ambassador 

In the words of my 11-year old son, “Whoop Whoop!”

So happy to have been asked by Bell Let’s Talk Team Leader Anita Levesque from Health Minds Canada, to be a 2017 Bell Let’s Talk Ambassador! Along side amazing mental advocates such as Canadian Olympian Clara Hughes, I will be spreading the word and sharing campaign awareness so that we can break down the walls of mental health stigma!

I will also be releasing my book Save-My-Life School on Jan 25th with a portion of the proceeds donated by me to mental health initiatives! You can order your copy today at or or or

Every voice counts! Please retweet and share my Bell Let’s Talk posts.

Social Media Press Release

Book Launch Jan 25th!


This intense and engaging memoir is based on the true-life of Natalie Harris. Mental illness, post-traumatic stress injury, overdoses and addiction are some of the demons this paramedic-turned-author deals with–stemming from a horrific double-murder call. This incredible story makes public the very private battles many face. This book is raw, honest and a window into the mind of someone facing mental illness. Although a serious topic, this biography is at times laugh-out-loud funny, poignant and simply a good, entertaining read. This is a must-have for anyone who wants a cover-to-cover book that keeps you on the edge of your seat. To me, it is a Bridget Jones’ Diary meets Girl Interrupted.

Obviously, this title will appeal to first responders such as paramedics, firefighters and police officers. However, this title will also be of interest to those suffering with or suffering beside people experiencing mental illnesses and/or addiction. In Canada alone, there are 4.5 million people with mental illnesses.

Last year, Jody Mitic released Unflinching: The Making of a Canadian Sniper. Like Natalie’s book, Jody’s had a specific audience as well as widespread interest. His book touched on PTSD; and akin to Natalie, he worked in a field with a very unique culture.

Natalie and her writing are highly supported and endorsed by many people with influence. The foreword is written by six-time Olympian, Clara Hughes. In addition, all three levels of government officials have written endorsements for the book. This includes, Arif Khan, Barrie City Council, Ann Hogarth, MPP, and John Brassard, MP.

Link to Book on Indigo:…/sa…/9781894813914-item.html

You can also preorder at

5 Facts About My PTSD Symptoms


Living with a post traumatic stress injury sucks. Living with addiction and depression sucks. Let me highlight some reasons why.

  1. I often can’t remember who you are. I know that it’s common to forget a name when we meet an individual again, but I literally forget that I have ever even met you at all! This doesn’t happen all the time, but it’s common enough that I avoid large gatherings for fear that the person whom I’m talking to is expecting that I remember them. I try so hard to practice name association, but that memory technique is completely useless when I can’t remember that we’ve ever met.  It’s an embarrassing fact about my life now.
  2. I rarely leave my house. I’ve become somewhat of a hermit. I try to get out and enjoy the nice weather, but there is not a single bone in my body that wants to do so. Noises like motorcycles, loud mufflers, chainsaws and busses put me into full anxiety mode. I try to plug my ears fast enough, but it’s usually too late. When the noise comes at me all I want to do is sit in my room with my fan on which provides enough white noise to block out the world and to have a window open from time to time.
  3. I can be very apathetic. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a caring person; buried deep down is my desire to help people all the time – which makes sense as I have been a paramedic for fourteen years. But allowing strong emotions such as love to bubble to the surface as much as I allowed it to before, is very scary to me. My ability to logically match an appropriate reaction to an emotion has changed, often causing me to worry and over reacted to something quite minor. So I avoid feeling all together. My kids are a different story, I love them so much I could explode, but as for any intimate relationship in the future I am doubtful any will last, so I imagine myself living alone on a mountain, and somehow I’m completely ok with that.
  4. I constantly fear that you don’t believe me. There is a liar in my head that tells me that anyone who has not experienced PTSD, depression or addiction doesn’t believe me. It tells me that people are just nice to my face, but that behind closed doors they roll their eyes and laugh at me. I suppose that’s why almost ALL of my friends have changed to one’s who ‘get it’, and that’s ok. I know that for the most part that people support me, but the liar convinces me from time to time that even my closest friends and family think I’m putting on somewhat of an act. That I could just pull up my sox and stop being so glum and useless. It’s funny how I think that people think that I want to be sad.
  5. I forget really important things. Not only do I forget that I’ve met you, I forget things that are super important. Doctors appointments, to pick people up…heck I even forget what I’ve forgot!  Eff!

The struggle is REAL.

Equine Love and Learning


An Opportunity I Couldn’t Pass Up!

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of experiencing the magic of equine learning with my children and the founder of New Horserizons, Maud Revel, in a town just West of Barrie, Ontario.

Maud, an Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) Certified Facilitator, through Dreamwinds – Cartier Farms, contacted me after reading about my battle with post traumatic stress disorder, and wanted to introduce me to a new and exciting way to compliment professional therapy I may have been receiving; I was more than happy oblige.

Research has shown how equine assisted activities are effective with helping people cope and heal from mental health illnesses of various degrees ( New Horserizons uses the Cartier Farms EAL Building Block Curriculum which is tailored specifically to meet the unique needs of members of the Canadian Armed Forces, First Responders and Police Officers.

For All Ages

According to the New Horserizon’s website, “Equine Assisted Learning, is for anyone who can benefit from strengthening their interpersonal skills, building confidence and relating more effectively with others. Whether you want to develop different communication methods, better listening skills and better teamwork abilities or simply cope with every day life and communicating with your family, EAL might be right for you”

I was encouraged to bring my daughter Caroline (20), and son Adam (10) with me, as Maud has been a teacher for many years, and has witnessed first hand the positive effects in which being around such majestic animals can have on all age groups.

Caroline and Adam had never been in close proximity to a horse before, and were excited but visibly nervous for their day at the Kureka Equestrian Centre, where Maud facilitates an interactive learning experience between participants and horses such as Murphy.


We participated in activities which encouraged ‘out-side-of -the-box’ thinking, and teamwork, and by the end of the day Adam and Caroline were no longer nervous of being around Murphy, and were confident and proud to be able to maneuver a 1000 lb creature through the fun obstacles.

Why Horses?

According to Maud, “horses will help you recognize opportunities for learning about yourself. Horses provide honest, instant feedback when we work with them. They don’t judge, they don’t over-think but they do challenge our behavior and leadership abilities”.

New Horserizons’ EAL activities always include a minimum of two humans and a horse and are conducted on the ground. The exercises will let you reflect on your own communication and negotiation skills, and practice reasonable goal settings while having fun in the company of horses.


A huge thank you to Maud Revel and New Horserizons! 

For more information please go to:

Please take a moment to read the news article from the Barrie Examiner about my experience with Equine Learning found in the link below.

Bill 163: Ontario Supporting First Responder’s Bill

Bill 163

April 5th, 2016 will always be a day to remember! Seven years of fighting by SO MANY amazing people (of which I was only part of for 2 years) for the recognition of the toll our careers take on our mental health. There’s LOTS more work to be done.

Stay tuned for an upcoming article in the Canadian Paramedicine magazine documenting the time line of the PTSD Bill’s past seven years, and of the fight that Toronto Advanced Care Paramedic Shannon Bertrand so bravely started so that April 5th, 2016 could one day become a reality.


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