Fire Fighting in Canada

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Program to support psychological health of firefighters expands across Canada

December 1, 2020
By FFIC Staff

Dec. 1, 2020, Canada – The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) has announced the expansion of its Resilient Minds program from British Columbia and Prince Edward Island into the Yukon, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador.

This program, the first of its kind, brings formal psychoeducation to fire halls and departments, mitigating occupational stress and trauma responses, while building healthier teams. Co-developed by CMHA Vancouver-Fraser with Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services in 2016, Resilient Minds is an evidence-based, peer-led, skills and resilience development training program designed by and for firefighters.

To date, Resilient Minds has successfully equipped firefighters across BC and PEI with skills to safeguard their psychological health. The program is designed for both career and volunteer firefighters and is quickly becoming a sought-after program in the fire fighting community across the country.

“Firefighters work hard to protect our communities, and Resilient Minds can help protect their mental health,” said Margaret Eaton, National CEO, CMHA. “This program keeps firefighters well and teaches them how to identify psychological stress and trauma in themselves, their peers and members of the public. CMHA is proud to be offering Resilient Minds to more first responders across Canada.”

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Firefighters are exposed to significant trauma as a result of their work and require resources and skills to protect their psychological health, skills that are not taught as part of their technical training. This skill deficit not only puts them at risk of developing a mental illness, but contributes to a rate of suicide among firefighters that is 30 per cent higher than in the general population.

“Prior to retiring from my role as Fire Chief for Vancouver Fire Rescue Services (VFRS), I had the opportunity to work closely with VFRS teams and CMHA as we rolled the Resilient Minds program out to our firefighters and command staff,” said retired Chief Darrell Reid, Vancouver Fire and Rescue Department. “The evidence-based, proactive design of Resilient Minds, combined with robust ongoing assessment of results to drive continuous improvement of the program, allowed it to evolve quickly into an important tool for the mental health and wellness of our staff. I experienced the program not only as a Chief, but also as a participant, and found that the well-designed peer delivery model was key to establishing trust and reducing stigma for VFRS members. Firefighters can experience both significant and cumulative occupational stressors, and Resilient Minds provides information, strategies and techniques for firefighters at any point in their career to support their resilience and that of their team members.”

Recognizing that many other first responders, such as paramedics and nurses are in need of this training, CMHA is prepared and eager to begin adapting Resilient Minds for other first response sectors. There is a clear need for evidence-based solutions to support first responders in a way that is specific to their occupational stressors. CMHA is dedicated to promoting mentally healthy cultures and behaviours within fire services more broadly.

For more information, please visit resilientminds.cmha.ca.


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