Firefighters, paramedics, and law enforcement officers experience traumas and stressors on the job that are unlike those seen in most other occupations. It’s not surprising, therefore, that recent research has shown that these workers are at higher risk of mental health injuries. The agencies that employ first responders are tasked with how to best support their mental health – from determining appropriate training for first responders and their managers, to sourcing occupationally aware practitioners, to aiding with recovery and hope through peer support. Currently, there are many approaches but no central inventory of resources or best practices that allow for sharing of knowledge, resources, and training across first responder agencies. It is this reality that in December 2015 led to the formation of the B.C. First Responders Mental Health Committee – a multi-agency committee representing labour and management from both urban and rural communities. Chaired by WorkSafeBC, the committee is working collaboratively to provide cross-organizational leadership and recommend practices that promote positive mental health for first responders across the province.
The mission of the Committee is to actively promote positive mental health and provide the leadership, best practices (resources, awareness, education, training, and supports) that first responders, their communities, and leaders need.
Goals of the Committee
The Committee initially developed five goals for 2016-2017:
- Research, share and promote current best practices and relevant studies to support positive mental health among first responders.
- Develop a network of culturally knowledgeable, competent, credentialed practitioners.
- Develop and pilot an anti-stigma campaign incorporating champions from various first responder groups.
- Develop a toolkit of best practices and resources for employers, supervisors and workers to support mental health in the workplace.
- Identify an evaluation approach for programs and resources developed.
After the goals for 2016-2017 were mostly completed, the Committee developed five goals for 2018-2019:
- Continue to identify and develop recommended practices and resources to support positive mental health among first responders
- Increase outreach to first responders, their leadership and their communities to promote awareness of available resources and create meaningful change within first responder organizations
- Host a first responder mental health conference
- Reach out to the broader group of public safety personnel to support them in addressing their mental health needs
- Support mental health practitioners to improve the effectiveness of the assessment and treatment of first responders
While viewed as multi-year goals, the committee recognizes the need to review these for relevancy on an ongoing basis.
Members of the Committee
The first responders on the Committee include labour/management, paid/volunteer, urban/rural and First Nations from police, fire fighters and ambulance services:
- Law Enforcement: BC Municipal Chiefs of Police, BC Police Association, Canada Border Services, RCMP.
- Fire Fighters: BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Association, Fire Chief’s Association of BC, Greater Vancouver Fire Chiefs, Volunteer Firefighters Association of BC.
- Ambulance: Ambulance Paramedics of BC, BC Emergency Health Services.
- First Nations: First Nations Emergency Services.
The steering committee shares a common recognition of the important need in all organizations for a mental health strategy focused on BC first responder groups (both the agencies and their employees); as representatives of their respective agencies, the committee members recognize and support the efforts of the steering committee. Also participating is a senior official from the Ministry Responsible for Labour.
For further information on the Committee, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.