THEY are there to rescue us in our hours of greatest need. Day after day, paramedics pull mangled bodies from car smashes, crawl under fallen buildings and fend off attacks by drunks. They witness unspeakable trauma, some for decades, but when they collapse emotionally the ambulance service too often fails them.One paramedic commits suicide each year in the state, on average, yet the ambulance service often refuses to accept battle fatigue is significant, in some cases blaming their personal lives instead.Their suicide rate – one in 3500 – is almost three times higher than the general community’s one in 10,000.Friends, family and former colleagues of nine paramedics who killed themselves between 1998 and 2008 have given disturbing accounts of how work pressure either contributed to or caused severe depression.As the final report of the 2008 parliamentary inquiry into the service was tabled yesterday, paramedics say the service is still failing to take responsibility for their mental health.The report shows the service has made considerable progress on paper but has far to go in creating a healthy work environment, the inquiry committee chairwoman, Robyn Parker, said.”It is concerning that 18 months after our initial report we are still made aware of a number of officers who are in a perilous mental health situation, clearly work related and clearly not resolved,” Ms Parker said.Coronial figures show that from July 2000 to January 2010, nine paramedics committed suicide. The Herald has identified two other suicides, in 1998 and 1999.”A variety of factors appear to have contributed to their decision to end their lives, including financial difficulties, relationship breakdowns, drug and other health issues,” an ambulance spokesman said.The service has no formal process for collecting data on suicides.The service’s chief executive, Greg Rochford, said the organisation has ”worked very hard to create an atmosphere that is caring” and strongly denied any suggestion it did not properly acknowledge workplace stress.”[But] we’re certainly not going to accept the claim that this is the cause or the main cause of a tragedy like suicide. It’s just too complex for that.”Mr Rochford said there had been significant reform in the past year to improve support for mental illness.Susie O’Brien, the partner of a Newcastle paramedic, Bernie Briggs, who killed himself in 2007, said his death was ”definitely work related” and his brother Dean Briggs said ”burnout” was a factor.Lifeline 131 114