First responders across the province put their lives on the line on a daily basis, to help keep Albertans safe.
Alberta firefighters, police officers, paramedics, sheriffs, corrections officers and emergency health-care workers often struggle alone with navigating resources and trying to figure out their path to mental wellness.
Yesterday the provincial government announced that they will put forth $1.5 million per year for three years to better equip first responders to manage post-traumatic stress injuries; for a total of $4.5 million in funding.
The Alberta government says that they are committed to providing additional mental health supports for first responders, including leading-edge research, prevention and stigma reduction.
Fire Inspector Jeff Avery with Cochrane Fire Services says that this is a giant step in the right direction.
He says "You see more and more cases of this amongst the first responders so it's really, really good that they're finally recognizing that it is a problem and starting to help out. You know it's a job that we knew what we were signing up for, but eventually, it does take its toll and some people need help to deal with some of the things we see."
The grants will be awarded to researchers and non-profit organizations working to improve first responder mental health. Applications to the Supporting Psychological Health in First Responders grant will be open until September 20.
From 2014 to 2018, 450 Workers' Compensation Board (WCB) claims were made for first responders related to post-traumatic stress injuries, costing more than $55 million.
Avery says that in having to react quickly on the job there isn't time to process what's happening throughout the day. He says the reflection at the end of the day can often be tough.
He says "Those different calls, you kind of have to shut a call down and then get ready for the next one, and then at the end of the day you kind of reflect on everything that you've been through during the day. It could be multiple accidents that you've been through but you just have to regroup and keep going to the next one and keep going to the next one, and finally, it does build up."
Avery says that the struggle for many first responders is separating work and home, and not wanting to take those work issues home to family.
He says that although Cochrane Fire Services does a good job of recognizing the need for help and providing support, he believes that additional funding from the province will be valuable.
In a release from the provincial government, President of the Alberta Association Chiefs of Police Dale McFee stated the importance of investing in the mental health and well-being of our first responders.
He says "It is important we keep first responders as healthy as possible so they can continue to protect the citizens of our province each day. Investing in leading-edge and evidence-based programs will ensure our members get the best possible care when they need it most. We strive to continually get better and this can only be done through proper research and listening to those officers affected by PTSI."
Alberta first responders are made up of :
- More than 14,000 full-time, part-time, casual and volunteer firefighters. About 80 per cent are volunteers.
- More than 7,500 police officers.
- More than 9,400 paramedics.
- More than 770 sheriffs.
- More than 1,500 corrections officers.