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NSR speaks up about mental health struggles, hoping to shatter the stigma

Undated file photo shows North Shore Rescue team. (Photo via Facebook: North Shore Rescue)
Summary

North Shore Rescue is taking part in a new program designed to support those struggling with mental health

NORTH VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – They’re usually called on to help others but now North Shore Rescue says some of its members are struggling with mental health and they’re speaking out in hopes of helping break the stigma.

The team is now taking part in a new program designed to support those who may need help. It’s called Resilient Minds and it helps identify the indicators that someone is having a hard time.

NSR Team Leader Mike Danks admits the team, made up entirely of volunteers, sometimes has difficulty seeing the things they do during a rescue call.

“We have first responders on our team, police officers, firefighters, paramedics — they’ll see this stuff more often. But, you have to keep in mind that we have people that are professional engineers or lawyers or accountants and they don’t see this stuff as often. Some of the calls we respond to with search and rescue can be quite traumatic and we just need to look out for each other. We need to be aware. If someone is acting a little bit different than normal, take the time and speak to them and see if there’s anything going on in the background. Have the steps in place if that person needs to seek professional help.”

Danks feels it’s, unfortunately, common that some people fear speaking up about how they’re feeling out of fear they may be judged. “I can say personally for myself that was the case. It used to just be [like], ‘Be tough and suck it up. I’m a big guy, I can handle this.’ But the reality is you have a cup and that cup keeps getting more and more stuff added into it and at some point that cup is going to overflow and that’s a normal thing. We shouldn’t be ashamed of that.”

He credits the program for helping bring the team closer together, by breaking down the barriers that may have been in place before when it came to talking about feelings.

The province offers a Critical Incident Stress Management service that is available, but Danks feels Resilient Minds focuses more on the day-to-day counselling some may benefit from. “I’ve been to some calls where I’ve been thinking about it for a number of days after the fact, but you don’t really want to share that with anybody. But this program really talks about sharing that with people and being open about it and saying, ‘I’ve having a bit of a hard time dealing with this and let’s talk about it and get it off your chest.’ Sometimes that really makes a big difference because you just need to process the event you’ve been through and recognize that it’s not normal.”

Right now the team is feeling especially taxed as one of its members has revealed he’s battling cancer for a second time.

Jay Piggot was originally diagnosed with a rare form of cancer affecting his liver in December 2015. The community and his friends rallied and he beat it, eventually being strong enough to return to North Shore Rescue.

“Jay is back in treatment and receiving intensive chemotherapy. His condition is declining and he is unable to work. The treatment he is receiving is helping, but he also will benefit from a treatment called Transarterial Chemoembolization that is available to him through the University of Washington,” says a statement from team members.

They say all the money raised will help him get that treatment.

If you want to help Jay, click here.