MHCC launches virtual course — delivered by first responders, for first responders
For Pauline Meunier, a paramedic of 26 years, it took a trip to the allergist to give her anxiety a name.
“What I thought were allergic reactions turned out to be panic attacks,” she said. “Before I was asked about anxiety, it never occurred to me that my mental health could be the problem.”
That difficulty in recognizing one’s own mental injury or illness, she explained, is common among first responders, as is the undertone of stigma or self-stigma that may prevent someone from seeking help.
Now, as a training and delivery specialist with the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s (MHCC’s) Working Mind team, and a facilitator for the new The Working Mind – First Responders (TWMFR) Virtual course, Meunier is helping to break the cycle.
“First responders know that taking care of their physical health is critical to performing at their best,” she said. “Through this training, we want them to understand that caring for their mental health is equally important.”
The freshly revamped course is now being delivered virtually (until it becomes safe again to do so in person). Using an evidence-based approach, it gives first responders the knowledge they need to self-assess and also to talk about mental health — including strategies to help them cope with challenges and resources to seek out when they need support. To maximize the material’s resonance, its scenarios and terminology are tailored to each relevant group (e.g., paramedics, firefighters, police), and the course’s facilitators all come from first responder backgrounds.