In a time of an emergency, they are the ones we look to for leadership and guidance, but we never think about them after that.
The mental illness issues surrounding firefighters, like so many others, is hidden underneath stereotypes and stigma.
"In the past history, the majority of the time, you just managed it in-house. You looked after each other and it is a pretty close-knit team, the fire department," explained Drumheller Deputy Fire Chief, Duane Bolin. "Just over the past few years, there has been the Alberta Critical Incident Provincial Network (ACIPN) that has been set up. This is a peer group that I belong to so I went to some advanced training for the Drumheller Fire Department."
The Alberta Critical Incident Provincial Network is the best of both worlds when it comes to dealing with mental health issues. It keeps the issues in-house, but also allows an individual to provide educated help. It also provides access for help in other smaller fire departments.
"Through this Alberta Critical Incident Provincial Network, myself is listed as a peer. So this is a peer-driven network that all first responders has access to. If anyone has an incident in their area, they can look to their surrounding fire department for support," continued Bolin.
Mental Health help has always been in need in smaller locations, and many end up suffering from it. ACIPN has recently gotten its feet wet and was created to fill the need of support in smaller communities. Over 300 people have been trained through the program to help others face their thoughts.
"It doesn't matter if you are a volunteer or full time, the impacts to the firefighters are the same, it doesn't matter if you are paid or volunteer. The support is getting more and more every year. The Alberta Incident Critical Provincial Network is definitely a step in the right direction for volunteer firefighters," concluded Bolin.