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New program supports first responder mental health in rural Alberta

April 26, 2022
By FFIC Staff

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April 26, Alberta – The Alberta Municipal Health and Safety Association (AMHSA) has launched a free, comprehensive mental health services program to support Alberta rural and remote fire and rescue service personnel.

In Alberta, firefighters represent a large percentage of psych-related first responder WCB claims, with many attributed to post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI). With funding provided by the Government of Alberta’s Supporting Psychological Health in First Responders (SPHIFR) Stream 1 (Services) grant program, AMHSA aims to provide evidence-based training and tools to support rural and remote firefighters living with or at risk of post-traumatic stress injuries (PTSI).

Employment as a fire or rescue services first responder comes with a variety of risks, the most obvious being extreme temperatures, dangerous situations, chemical exposure, and physical hazards. Psychological hazards may be less obvious but are no less harmful. Compared to other provinces, Alberta firefighters have the highest rate of mental health time-loss claims, at 48 per 100,000. Between 2015 and 2019, there were nearly 700 WCB-Alberta claims for first responders related to PTSI, totalling $104 million worth of related treatment and compensation.

AMHSA has partnered with the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) and Telus Health to provide rural and remote Alberta firefighters with evidence-based mental health content, training, and resources related to prevention and recovery from PTSI. This includes MHCC’s The Working Mind First Responder (TWMFR) virtual training program, Alberta-based support resources, post-course booster training, and self-management tools that can be confidentially accessed through the Espri by TELUS Health mobile app. In addition to program delivery, AMHSA has partnered with the University of Calgary to measure program impact and effectiveness.

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The program is being offered at no charge to 375 firefighters and leaders who work in fire stations registered in rural and remote municipalities across Alberta.