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First responders gather in Richmond to end mental health stigma


Hundreds of first responders gather in Richmond for a conference dedicated to their mental health

The first-ever conference devoted to first-responders' psychological well-being was held over a two-day period

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It’s the first-ever conference in B.C. devoted to the psychological well-being of those who put their own lives on the line.

Hundreds of first responders are gathered in Richmond on Thursday in an effort to dispel the stigma that still exists when it comes to mental health, and asking for help.

One of the conference’s organizers Steve Farina says over time, the trauma and stressors that first responders deal with can lead to a breaking point, often without a person even realizing they’re on that road.

“We’re at the cusp of change, and as people put their hands up, we’re going to need more resources, and I think that’s what this conference is about is explaining that. People are coming forward now, we have to help the helpers,” he says.

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He adds industry leaders, government and WorkSafe BC understand there is a problem, but time and effort need to be invested.

Farina, who is a firefighter, explains trauma can be like a backpack, noting after a few years every call or traumatic event will add weight until it becomes unbearable.

“What is unique about the first responder culture is they have this 30-year [cumulative] exposure to trauma, and if you don’t deal with it, it just catches up to you and it can just knock you right over when you’re not even expecting it.”

Farina says the professions are at the cusp of change, and as more people put up their hands for help, more resources are going to be needed.

The conference goes for two days and consists of 34 speakers and panellists.