Canadian Firefighter Magazine

B.C. expands psychological wellness program for firefighters

By Government of British Columbia   

Headlines News Health and Wellness firefighters mental health

March 6, 2024, British Columbia – More firefighters in B. C. will learn how to develop and improve their mental health resiliency through enhanced access to a psychological wellness training program.

Launched in spring 2023, the BC Occupational Awareness Training online program is available to all municipal firefighters throughout the province and all BC Wildfire Services staff as of March 1 and provides more training on how to manage daily stress and anxiety. Phase 2 of the program, which includes 12 new training modules, will launch this summer.

“Firefighters are often hesitant to seek help for their mental health due to stigma and shame. This support will make such a positive difference and will remind us that we are not alone. This program will save lives,” said firefighter Curtis Woodworth in a press release.

The first year of the program focuses on helping firefighters understand mental health, learn how to manage stress and develop self-care strategies. It allows workers to watch a short video of 10-15 minutes from the series, followed by a guided crew discussion that is supported by a printable workbook. The videos and workbooks remain available online so firefighters who miss a session or join the department later can access these resources.

To date, more than 6,660 municipal firefighters have enrolled in the program.

B.C.’s Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions is investing $300,000 over two years to expand the program, which aims to make it easier and more acceptable for firefighters to seek help for mental health challenges. It also aims to strengthen their resilience and help organizations better identify the kind of support they need.

The program is administered by the BC Municipal Safety Association and First Responder Health. It is supported by the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Association, Volunteer Firefighters’ Association of BC, BC Fire Training Officers Association and the Fire Chiefs’ Association of BC.

“The safety and well-being of our firefighters are of the utmost importance and we are committed to taking proactive measures to ensure their protection,” said Todd Schierling, president of the BCPFFA. “With the support of the ministry and the collaborative effort of other partners, we are enhancing training resources to safeguard firefighters from mental health illnesses and injuries.”

This investment is part of a $1 billion provincial funding package that will help people living with mental health or addiction challenges to access and stay connected to care, including $586 million for treatment and recovery services.

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