First responders mental health tour coming to Northwest

A tour promoting conversations on mental health and recovery and the value of peer support for first responders is coming to Northwestern Ontario.

The Hope, Resiliency and Recovery tour will take place in communities from Kenora, Fort Frances, and Thunder Bay, to Greenstone and Marathon starting next week.

The sessions are jointly organized by the OPP and Boots on the Ground, a charity organization that provides peer support for first responders across Canada via a confidential and anonymous, emergency telephone help line that’s open 24/7.

OPP Provincial Const Hobie Johnson-Rudd said it’s the first event between the two organizers adding at each event, speakers will share their experiences with their own mental health struggles and their recovery.

“After they get done speaking, there will be an opportunity for questions and conversations from other first responders,” he said. “A Boots on the Ground representative as well as the OPP healthy workplace team will make themselves available for conversations as well after the event if any of the members feel like they need to talk to a professional counselor after.”

Johnson-Rudd said first responders face everything due to the nature of the work.

“Unfortunately, we respond to what most people consider to be their worst days and that is an average day for us. We have to respond and help in the best way that we can,” he replied when asked about the stresses and strains first responders face.

“There really is no limit to what we see what we hear and what we do because whenever people call, we answer,” he said.

Johnson-Rudd, who is a frontline constable, said it’s important to participate in events like this and join the conversation between the first responders because mental health still has stigma around it.

“I think that collectively, as a society, we are doing much better and de-stigmatizing mental health,” he said. “But I still think that there's a lot of work to be done especially in the first responder communities and we are such a big group of people who experience such a unique lifestyle that I think it's important for me to advocate for anyone who needs help.”

“I'm happy to be there to support my colleagues,” he said.

Johnson-Rudd said the sessions are a closed event, but anyone who is in a first responder role like police, firefighters, EMTs, corrections, military, doctors, nurses, and dispatchers are welcome to attend. He said anyone who wants more information or the location for the sessions should contact their local OPP detachment.

“We are looking forward to seeing the benefits of it,” he said.

Eric Shih, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source