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Jennifer Grigg   

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Feb. 3, 2016, Mississauga - Yesterday was Day 2 at Mississauga Fire's Garry W. Morden Centre for the R2MR (Road to Mental Readiness) train-the-trainer program, and after two full days of learning, my brain is full.

Program facilitators spent the first day and part of the second day teaching us about the curriculum, going through the entire program delivery, and providing many opportunities to put into practice the concepts and ideals that we were learning about, most of which was done through group work, but at the end of the day yesterday we started to work on actually delivering the program ourselves. We were each given a couple of slides from the presentation and instructed to deliver the content to our fellow group members.

To quote one of our instructors, "It was a little like driving a standard for the first time, wasn't it?" Everyone laughed. It was a completely accurate description – maybe not for everyone, but definitely for many of us. It did feel a little jerky, not that smooth, and uncomfortable. But that was the point. It wasn't meant to feel easy because at this point, it's all still very new to us. We're all working on wrapping our heads around what we're learning, as we would in any course, but we're also learning to be facilitators of the program, so we're learning two different aspects.

As one of the instructors said, "You have to be the student before you can be the teacher." So we began as students of the program, and then we transitioned into becoming facilitators of the program.

The curriculum development has been in the works for a very long time and the research behind it is extensive. The program is very structured, but not without some leniency, and it's very focused, but not without fun. It's also very powerful, both personally and professionally, for me.

As many of you know, I've had my own experiences with depression, anxiety and PTSD in the past, and that was a strong motivator for me being here this week. Over the past two days I've experienced many emotions and reactions to the discussions we've had in class, and it has served as both a reminder and a reason for why this is so important.

Just to clarify, it hasn't been overwhelming for me at all. In fact, quite the opposite: some of the discussions have helped me understand things that I've experienced in the past that perhaps weren't ever explained to me in that particular way. Having that understanding is such a valuable tool (if not a necessity) for supporting and helping others struggling with mental-health issues.

It's also shown me how far I've come from where I once was. I said a silent thank you to the good Lord for my courage and resilience (because make no mistake, it takes courage to face your demons), and solidified my determination to help bring awareness and efforts to ending the stigma surrounding mental-health issues.

At the beginning of the course, I was hesitant to say too much. As I explained to a classmate, "I'm afraid that if I say too much, they'll know right away that I have a history. They'll see right through me." I also admitted to realizing that I was judging myself, in that I was worried that my classmates would see me as weak, or soft, or even damaged goods, as I had often thought of myself as in the past.

The irony is that this is the exact talk that we're trying to prevent, in an effort to end the stigma. And here I was doing it to myself, right in the middle of course teaching us not to do that to others.

As the day winds down, in my retrospective, introverted way, I review the past two days and their impact on me. There's been a morning chuckle each day; Monday's was having Mississauga Chief Tim Beckett smile and come over to say hi and shake my hand: I thought he was smiling at someone behind me, because I was sure he wouldn't remember meeting me a couple of years before at the Ladders Up for the Foundation fundraiser. Silly introvert!)

Yesterday's funny was waking up to strange sounds coming from the neighbouring room in the hotel I'm in (we'll leave it at that), and then having the hairdryer short out and start spewing out smoke. I ran to the window and opened it up while trying to vent the room by waving around the heavy curtains. I was more concerned with tripping the fire alarm than I was with being seen half dressed. Good thing it was early in the morning because I don't think the patrons at Chuck E Cheese next door would have appreciated such a sight.

You really have to be able to laugh at yourself in times such as those because life can be hard enough on us, which why I'm so proud to be a part of this pilot course, a program which, as I said to editor Laura King, is going to change people's lives.

Jennifer Grigg has been a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario since 1997. Email her at, and follow her on Twitter @georgianbayjen

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