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Canada’s first mental health directory for first responders launches

Support for B.C. firefighters and first responders is now just a click away.

This, after a mental health directory launched this week.

It’s the first of its kind in Canada and offers an online database that gives users access to mental health professionals.

They are trained to serve the needs that stem from the stress that first responders are exposed to on the job.

Matt Johnson, a firefighter and founder of First Responder Health, said every day, he gets an email or call from a firefighter requesting a clinician referral. 

“Partnering with the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Association and the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors, our shared vision is to deliver support in an accessible and immediate way to keep first responders safe,” Johnston said. 

The directory was established in response to research showing that public safety personnel are at an increased risk of mental health issues such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

A 2017 Canadian study found that 44.5 percent of the 6,000 firefighters, police, dispatchers, correctional workers, and paramedics who were surveyed struggled with symptoms consistent with one or more psychological disorders. 

For the general population, the average is much lower at 10 percent.

The clinicians are handpicked from a network of trained psychologists and registered clinical counsellors. 

Members go through two-day trauma training workshops where they learn how to support the needs of public safety personnel and their family members. 

The Occupational Awareness Training: Treating First Responder Trauma Program is supported by the BC First Responder Mental Health Committee, which is chaired by WorkSafeBC and developed by Johnston and Steve Farina, the Lower Mainland vice president of the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Association and chair of the Mental Health Taskforce. 

The two-day program is an entry point to working with first responders and complements the advanced training that all network clinicians have received. 

“What I love about this directory is that it includes a group of truly humble, curious and talented mental health professionals that have taken the time to immerse themselves in our first responder culture, language, hierarchy and unionized work environment,” says Farina. “Understanding the nuances of chain of command, available benefits and the landscape of the fire service is crucial when taking on first responder clients because we are a unique group with our own distinct challenges.” 

The directory was designed to be accessible and easy to navigate. 

For this reason, it does not have a paywall, data mining or advertising. 

First responders can access support by booking an online counselling session or by using the directory to search for a clinician nearby. 

The platform can be accessed online or via an app to deliver counselling services to those who need it when they need it. 

To access the directory, click here.

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