Canadian Firefighter Magazine

Wayfound receives funding to support first responders’ mental health with Before Occupational Stress program

By CFF Staff   

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July 21, 2022, Calgary – Wayfound Mental Health Group, through the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT), has received $9.01 million in funding to deploy its Before Occupational Stress (BOS) program to more than 100,000 firefighters, police officers, nurses, health aides, physicians and corrections officers.  

Before Occupational Stress program was developed by Calgary-based Wayfound as a solution to previously reactive mental health care for first responders and frontline workers.

“Up until about five or so years ago, our approach toward mental care was entirely reactive and attempting to provide treatment to people who had already developed operational stress injuries,” said Dr. Megan McElheran, CEO of Wayfound. “We were providing information that had our clients saying ‘I wish I’d known this before.’ This programming came from the need to provide upstream intervention.”

McElheran drew similarities between a common fire fighting practice and the process of the BOS program.

“If you think about all of the decontamination rituals that firefighters go through after they finish the structure fire. In some ways, this is like that, right? They know they’ve had these exposures, so they have to be active and diligent and deliberate. The same goes for the psychological decontamination we’re doing and the ways we’re trying to teach these responders to take care of their mental health.”

The Before Occupational Stress program was developed in 2018. Researchers at CIPSRT have been independently evaluating the BOS program since then. The program links clinical approaches with scientific expertise to support the psychological health and wellness of frontline personnel over the course of their careers.

“The data so far has demonstrated that public safety personnel and frontline workers can learn tools to minimize the psychological impacts of their work, so they can continue to provide the necessary services of their work while maintaining psychological wellness,” said McElheran. “These employees are inevitably exposed to high levels of operational stress, but that does not mean they should be destined to have their lives negatively impacted by the psychological effects of their work.”

The funding announcement will see BOS offered in three ways: BOS Online, which participants complete at their own pace; BOS Peer, an eight-week version of the program delivered virtually to groups of frontline workers; and BOS Intensive, eight weeks of two-hour group therapeutic intervention for individuals who would benefit from a more in-depth focus on the material taught in the program.

The grant from the Public Health Agency of Canada covers the costs of the BOS program from 103,601 responders Canada wide.

To sign up for the programming and to find more information, visit

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