Fire Service 'Road to Mental Readiness' Training Program launches in Mississauga

MISSISSAUGA, ON, April 8, 2016 /CNW/ - A group of fire service officers will be the first in Ontario to be trained to recognize signs of mental health issues and work-related stress in themselves and their colleagues. Today, Ontario Labour Minister Kevin Flynn, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, Mississauga Fire Chief Tim Beckett, Mental Health Commission of Canada Director of Mental Health First Aid, Micheal Pietrus and Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs President Matt Pegg marked the first Road to Mental Readiness (R2MR) training session, by meeting with trainers and trainees at the Garry W. Morden Centre in Mississauga.

"Mental illness, including occupational stress injuries and post-traumatic stress affects many firefighters, and often impacts their co-workers, families and friends," noted Minister Kevin Flynn. "Prevention is part of the comprehensive PTSD approach our government is implementing with Ontario's first responders. I applaud the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs for acquiring this program, and Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services for being the first to teach it to firefighters and officers."

The R2MR program was originally developed by the Department of National Defence. It addresses stigmas around mental health illness and occupational stress, and helps identifies the signs and symptoms. The main objectives of R2MR are to reduce the stigma of mental illness, increase awareness of mental health, and offer resources to maintain positive mental health and increased resiliency.

"Positive mental health is as important to a fire service as the modern equipment we rely on," said OAFC President Matt Pegg. "Mental stress, and the stigma associated with mental illness, prevents some firefighters from acknowledging it and seeking help.  These are real issues that do not go away on their own. If allowed to fester, the consequences can, and have been tragic. The goal of the OAFC is for every firefighter and officer in Ontario to be able to recognize situations where they, their peers or family, require intervention or assistance, and address mental injuries as quickly and effectively as physical ones."

In the summer of 2015, the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs partnered with the Mental Health Commission of Canada to make the R2MR program available to fire services across Ontario, based on its success with military and police officers. There is a four-hour primary course and an eight-hour leadership course. Two rounds of five-day "train-the-trainer" courses took place in February at the Garry W. Morden Centre, attended by 40 fire service personnel from across Ontario. These 40 attendees became certified to teach the program to others in the fire service.

"As we work to eliminate the stigma of mental illness, I'm proud that Mississauga firefighters will be among the first group in Ontario to be trained in mental health readiness," said Tim Beckett, Fire Chief, Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services. "With this training, our firefighters will now be able to recognize signs of mental health issues in themselves and their peers, and provide the support needed."

"On behalf of the City of Mississauga and Members of Council, I would like to recognize Mississauga Fire Chief Tim Beckett, Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services and all our brave first-responders who dedicate themselves to keep local families and all residents safe," Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said. "We must ensure Mississauga and Ontario firefighters receive the necessary support services and care so that they can do their jobs to safeguard neighbourhoods, while at the same time carry on with living healthy and engaged personal and professional lives."

"As firefighters and chiefs, we advocate and teach prevention in the community every day," said OAFC President Pegg. "Prevention can work with people, just as it does with fire and carbon monoxide safety. By recognizing and addressing mental illnesses early, this program will improve firefighter health and safety, and make all of Ontario's fire services stronger."

The Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs represents the chief fire officers of the 454 municipal fire departments in the Province of Ontario.  Our mission is to lead innovation and excellence in public and firefighter safety. 

SOURCE Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs

Image with caption: "Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (CNW Group/Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20160408_C4758_PHOTO_EN_661005.jpg

For further information: Richard Boyes, Executive Director, OAFC, 905-484-4476, richard.boyes@oafc.on.ca

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