1st responder mental health a priority

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

Corporal McDermott of the Slave Lake Detachment feels very strongly about first responders mental health.

“PTSD is so real in our world, but nobody wants to talk about it,” says McDermott.

In conjunction with Victims Services, she organized a full day seminar for first responders and their spouses in Slave Lake.

When first responders suffer from PTSD, it affects the whole community, McDermott says.

Local businesses, the Legacy Wildfire Fund and governments in the surrounding areas funded the seminar so that it was free for attendees. It was held from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Legacy Centre on Saturday, September 14.

Before the event, Town of Slave Lake Mayor Tyler Warman spoke about the importance of the seminar at the September 10 council meeting.

“There’s been a lot of fatalities recently,” which is hard on first responders, mayor Warman said.

In the week before the event, he sent a of note encouragement to all of the first responders to attend.

People came from High Prairie, Wabasca, and Slave Lake. People in attendance included EMS, fire, RCMP, peace officers, and women’s shelter workers.

“It went so well,” McDermott says. “We had tons of positive feedback. I think, the right people were there.”

Attendees included two fire chiefs and a deputy fire chief, which allowed them to lead top down, says McDermott.

The event was led by Dr. Jody Carrington, a psychologist based out of Olds. She wrote a book entitled Kids These Days: A Game Plan For (Re)Connecting With Those We Teach, Lead, & Love. Carrington runs seminars for teachers, first responders and their spouses to help them reconnect and stay in service.

“She called first responders heroes,” McDermott says. “That was hard to receive.”

First responders don’t think of themselves as heroes, McDermott says. “The things that our first responders see and hear shouldn’t be seen by anyone” and first responders witness then day-in-and-day-out.

“You are the most vulnerable when you feel joy,” Carrington said. “Joy is when you are in the moment and open to any emotion.”

Carrington talked about relationships, trauma, grief and loss.

“Being able to feel safe with people is the most important part of mental health,” Carrinton said, quoting Bessel va der Kolk. “Safe connections are fundamental to meaning full and satisfying lives.”

Carrington focuses her work with adults because children mirror the good or bad mental health of the adults around them.

Dr. Jody Carrington led a mental health seminar for first responders and their spouses at the Legacy Centre on Sept. 14.

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