by Santana Bellantoni
Published in Guelph Today – Feb. 15, 2023
Mental health stigma is prevalent across industries but for those whose career it is to save others, like first responders, it can be particularly difficult.
Invisible Wounds and Dalton Associates have partnered up to present a seminar called First Responders and Their Family. It is by, and for first responders, and mental health organizations.
This is the first seminar hosted in Guelph by Invisible Wounds, an organization aiming to help first responders and their family by organizing conferences, seminars and events to decrease mental health stigma.
Dalton Associates has been situated in Fergus for the last 28 years. It provides mental health and wellness services like counsellors, therapists, assessments and includes mental health professionals who have experience with first responders.
The event will be held at the Delta Hotel in Guelph on Sunday, Apr. 30 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The seminar fee is $50 and registration can be filled out on the Dalton Associates website.
The primary goal is to reach first responders and their families and family members must be 18 years of age or older to attend the seminar.
“We wanted to come together to bring an event focused on the culture and the voice of families and first responders,” said Carl Dalton, CEO of Dalton Associates. “And we wanted those voices to be heard by mental health clinicians, or people in the community that want to help.”
In order to have effective programming about mental health, it has to come from the voice of the people and being attune to the culture, relationships, and the nuances, he said.
The seminar will have talks from two couples, both involved with being first responders in their relationships.
“It normalizes a lot of the issues they are confronted with because of the job their partner may do,” said Deborah MacDonald, independent mental health professional and speaks for Invisible Wounds.
“Being a first responder brings some very unique things to a family relationship and some of those things are a little difficult to resolve,” she said.
There are other speakers who will delve into topics like transitioning into retirement, how to navigate the mental health system and deciphering mental health jargon.
There will also be people in charge of diffusing any situations that may occur if individuals are triggered from presentations by speakers, and make sure they are safe.
First responders are placed in situations where they are taking care of others, Dalton said.
“One of the things that has been perpetuated is to be able to handle what’s going on because of your training, and staying close knit about it, or not talking about it, and trying to protect others from some of the things that you’ve had to see or deal with,” said Dalton.
“For that to sort of manifest inside you like any other mental health or wellness issue, the stigma is still there that you need to be a provider and secure for others.”
Along with the stigma surrounding first responders accessing mental health help, there is a term called sanctuary trauma.
“Some first responders are still really impacted with and that’s when they think, or believe, whether it is real or perceived, that their organization has not treated them fairly,” said MacDonald.
First responders are not only fire services, police, paramedics and EMS, but also correctional services, communications, emergency staff, dispatch, and others, MacDonald stressed.