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Jennifer Grigg   

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Feb 4, 2016, Mississauga, Ont. - Day four of five at the Garry W. Morden Training Centre for the R2MR (Road to Mental Readiness) train-the-trainer course.

If I thought my brain was full by Tuesday, it's definitely jam packed now. There's not even room for air up there. On Wednesday, we continued to practise and get comfortable with delivering content in what are known as micro-teaches at different times throughout the day.

We also continued to review the content in the modules and were provided with background info and research on the material in order to deepen our understanding of the concepts and content. At the end of the day, we were assigned partners and our modules for the practical evaluation component on Friday.

This is where stuff got real. The goal now was to spend time getting intimate with our assigned modules in preparation for our evaluations. However, we were also continuing to work on familiarization with program content as a whole. Actually, familiarization isn't the right word. The importance of fully understanding and knowing the material we will be delivering was emphasized throughout.

Having sound knowledge of the material and the way it's presented and facilitated leads to credibility. Credibility leads to being open to new information and understanding. Understanding raises awareness. Awareness can save lives.

This is not a fluff course, nor is it another notch in the belt that is our resume. This is real. Very real. This program has the power to save lives, and everyone in the course realizes the impact it can have on the lives of emergency services personnel.

With each day, the knowledge, understanding and awareness permeates us and becomes a part of who we are. Our tolerance for counterproductive attitudes and behaviors surrounding mental-health issues decrease.

We've progressed from learning about it to living it.

Thursday we spent most of the day reviewing (again) the entire leadership package, which is the eight- hour course, and the primary package, which is the four-hour course. We reviewed, questioned, reiterated, verified and cemented the absorption of the material.

And then we wrote a test.

I couldn't help but think that the timing of the test may have been off because we were all experiencing full-brain syndrome from the fast-paced review of the two packages, and many of the participants commented on experiencing brain farts during the test.

It also became apparent that it was likely set up that way for a reason. As I mentioned before, the course has been in the works for a very long time. This version of the Mental Health Commission of Canada's program was adapted from the Department of National Defence and Calgary Police Service's Road to Mental Readiness programs. There is a ton of history, research, implementation and evaluation that has gone into this.

Every part of the program has been set up the way it has for a specific reason and I can tell you without a doubt that this is one of, if not the most, impactful courses I've ever taken.

I joked about the week being like a boot camp, and that having us write the test when we did was the equivalent of some of the Navy Seals training video clips we'd seen in the course. Just when you think you've got a handle on everything, the instructors throw something new at you.

That's how committed the instructors are are to ensuring that we're learning, absorbing, recalling and delivering the information correctly.

We're being trained be the catalyst for change by raising awareness and ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

And save lives.

A special shout out to our instructors, Valerie and Sergio; your dedication, professionalism, passion and sense of humour inspired us all. Thank you.

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

Jennifer Grigg By day 4 of the Road to Mental Readiness train-the-trainer course

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