Thursday, April 21, 2016

2016 Heroes are Human Resiliency Tour

First Responders and members of the military take a mental beating and their suffering has led to over 100 suicides from their ranks since 2014. Ontario has taken action and passed legislation with Bill 163 that supports First Responders with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The Bill was passed on April 5, 2016 and will allow faster support of the affected emergency personnel to treatment and benefits. It also recognizes that PTSD in First Responders is work-related.
"Under the Supporting Ontario's First Responders Act, the presumption allows for faster access to WSIB benefits, resources and timely treatment. Once a first responder is diagnosed with PTSD by either a psychiatrist or a psychologist, the claims process to be eligible for WSIB benefits will be expedited, without the need to prove a causal link between PTSD and a workplace event. The presumption applies to police officers, firefighters, paramedics, certain workers in correctional institutions and secure youth justice facilities, dispatchers of police, firefighter and ambulance services, and emergency response teams."

The Tema Conter Memorial Trust was established 15 years ago to support emergency services and military personnel - they "aim to help these men and women when they need it most." In response to the large amount of PTSD-related suicide Tema Conter created the Heroes are Human Resiliency PTSD Awareness Tour which will begin a cross-country tour of 48 cities, leaving Newfoundland May 2nd, travel coast to coast and end in Toronto July 22, 2016. The tour will be launched April 25, 2016 in Toronto with a preview of the educational event at Fines Ford Lincoln Sales (10 Simona Drive) between 11am and 1pm. Bob Fines, owner of the dealership will also provide the tour vehicles.

This is the second tour they have undertaken, the first in 2014 and now the 2016 tour to provide more information and build on the success of the earlier tour and the passage of Bill 163. Tour sponsors include the OPP Association, the Mental Health Commission of Canada, CUPE 905, Wounded Warriors Canada, the friends and family of Cpl Ken Baker, the Humber College Health Sciences as well as the Saskatchewan Government and the General Employees Union.
"With the help of local correctional, emergency services, and military organizations, The Trust will host two- hour community-based educational events in forty-eight towns and cities across Canada. Attendees will hear from a panel of experienced first responders who will share their stories and best practices about how to deal with acute cumulative and post-traumatic stress and how they came out the other side of that darkness." The events are open to all and emergency services and medical health members, military personnel as well as frontline communications and correctional staff. As part of the tour there will be a screening of the documentary "The Other Side of the Hero" which will be followed with panel discussions of operational stress injuries.

“These men and women see tragic events every day,” said Vince Savoia, founder and executive director of the Trust. “They witness human suffering up close and it sometimes becomes very difficult to cope with the aftermath. Smells, sounds and reliving witnessed events create lasting painful memories that sometimes haunt these men and women for life”.

Due to the stigma associated with mental health issues many first responders find it difficult to ask for help and Tema Conter believes that awareness, education and resiliency training can lead to a healthy workplace. Tema Conter also released a statement regarding the passing of Bill 163- Ontario's First Responders Act, 2016:

"Toronto, Ontario - We would like to congratulate Honourable Kevin Flynn, Minister of Labour, Honourable Yasir Naqvi, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services and MPP Cheri Di Novo, Parkdale/High Park for their tireless work in advancing this historic bill.

This legislation will authorize the Ministry of Labour to request and publish PTSD prevention plans from employers. It is our hope that these plans will require organizations to develop a comprehensive mental health wellness strategy, which include the enhancement of mental health awareness and stigma reduction, mitigation, intervention, accommodation and back-to-work policies and procedures.

We applaud this legislation, but we must remember that first responders may suffer from a variety of mental health issues, including, but not limited to cumulative stress, vicarious trauma, and compassion fatigue. These stressors can be as debilitating as post-traumatic stress disorder. Currently, these stressors are not recognized in this legislation. We hope, that with time, these additional stressors will be recognized and included in future amendments."

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