BRAMfiresheild-external2PTON, ON: Today, senior Brampton Fire and Emergency Services (BFES) personnel spent the day at a mental health training program learning how to identify and manage occupational stress injuries.

Road to Mental Readiness, or R2MR, is a training program originally developed by the Department of National Defence for members of the Canadian Armed Forces. The program is designed to address stigmas and identify the signs and symptoms of occupational stress injuries, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and traumatic mental stress. In 2015, the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs partnered with the Mental Health Commission of Canada to bring the R2MR program to fire departments across the province.

“Fire Chiefs across Ontario, and Brampton Fire and Emergency Services, see occupational stress issues as a top priority,” said Fire Chief Michael Clark. “Our goal is to have every one of our fire personnel complete this program, and help build awareness of and resilience to occupational stress injuries.”

The program, a full-day session, was delivered by members of BFES’ Peer Support Team. Earlier this year, they attended a 5-day train-the-trainer session to equip them to deliver the R2MR program locally. The R2MR training program uses a mental-health continuum model that identifies signs and symptoms associated with four stages of functioning: healthy, reacting, injured and ill. The program also identifies the roles of leaders to sense problems or support staff.

“Our first responders risk their lives to protect Brampton residents,” said City of Brampton CAO Harry Schlange. “Their exposure to difficult and traumatic situations makes them more vulnerable to mental stress. By creating awareness, compassion and understanding of mental health challenges, we can build a supportive community among staff.”

This year, 28 first responders have died by suicide in Canada, according to the Tema Conter Memorial Trust. Last year, 27 first responders took their lives between April 29 (when the trust began tracking numbers) and December 31. The Tema Conter Memorial Trust is leading provider of peer-support, family assistance and training for public safety and military personnel dealing with mental health injuries.

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