More than 300 first responders from across the province will be in Richmond next week to talk about their mental health.
Over a two-day conference, police officers, firefighters, paramedics and dispatchers along with government representatives, mental-health professionals and researchers will discuss the occupational traumas and stressors that are unique to emergency response work.
The first-of-its-kind conference is being led by the B.C. First Responders’ Mental Health Committee, which is chaired by WorkSafeBC.
The committee was formed in response to a growing concern by emergency responders over a lack of central supports and resources in all regions of B.C.
Twenty-two first responders died by suicide in 2018, according to Your Are Not Alone PTSD BC, an organization that has been tracking these deaths since 2015. Data collected by the group is based solely on self-reporting by families of emergency responders.
The conference comes nearly eight months after the province announced amendments to the Workers Compensation Act, adding post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental injuries to a list of “presumptive conditions,” no longer requiring workers to prove their disease or disorder is work-related.
Advocates were quick to celebrate the move, calling it a “good start” in supporting emergency workers and preventing tragedy.
The conference, which runs Jan. 31 to Feb 1, is one of five goals the committee has set to achieve in the 2018-19 year.