Innovative trauma supports coming for local emergency responders

By Ian Holmes
December 11, 2017 - 5:54pm

More support is becoming available for emergency responders struggling with job-related trauma.File photo/NanaimoNewsNOW

NANAIMO — Much-needed trauma support for local emergency responders is being enhanced.

Nanaimo Fire Rescue chief Karen Fry expected money from the Canadian Mental Health Association donated by Nanaimo-based Edgewood Treatment Centre will be in place next spring.

Fry said thanks to the donation, about 10 of their members will gain resiliency training to help identify signs of colleagues struggling with job related trauma.

“We used to never talk about it, we always have to be so tough and not show any vulnerability,” Fry said. “I'm really proud of our department because we talk about it so openly and I think that's the first step.”

Fry said their call volumes increase about 10 per cent every year, which means more trauma challenges impacting their members. She says a dramatic increase in overdose calls can be an added stress for their members.

“It's about protecting our members so they can go home and have long, healthy careers and continue to give back to the community.”

Fry said emergency responders burdened by trauma are prone to substance abuse and suicide. She said two Surrey firefighters took their own lives while she was a member of that city's department.

Fry noted the resiliency training will provide the baseline knowledge to then turn to professionals if need be.

Tackling trauma and PTSD as part of addiction care is “extremely rare,” according to Edgewood Treatment Centre's clinical and trauma supervisor Debra Kine

Kine said they started offering concurrent trauma and addictions counseling in a nine-week program for emergency responders in October.

“They're not able to ground themselves, or self-regulate so then they walk around very reactive with a lot of anxiety and a lot of times this can be misdiagnosed as something else when actually it's trauma.”

Kine said they're currently serving nine emergency responders dealing with “complex trauma” who have been looking for this kind of tailored support for a long time.

“We were getting a lot of questions from referrals in the community...we were listening to them.”

Nanaimo RCMP Cst. Gary O'Brien told NanaimoNewsNOW their department has been providing its own Road to Mental Readiness program for the past three years.

The BC Ambulance Service supplies mental health promotion, education and referrals to clinical psychologists if necessary.


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