The Mental Health First Aid Course, offered in partnership between SerViCe and SacriFice and Sherry Lachine from Broad Minds offers first responders and members of the veteran community the tools to be on the lookout for mental health concerns and connect loved ones and friends to the right resources.
The course was created by the Mental Health Commission of Canada after the idea of mental first aid was first brought to Canada ten years ago.
In 2016, Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) became involved to bring the veterans piece, and train instructors to then teach mental health first aid to members of the veteran community. VAC offers the program free-of-charge to veterans.
These particular courses, offered in Kingston, ON, are being taught by Sherry Lachine, an instructor who has trained the most people across Canada and is scheduled to train more people in mental health first aid in Kingston than any other area in Canada. To find a course in other parts of Canada click here.
Lachine has been credited with a phenomenal teaching style, and according to Kerri Tadeu, a co-founder of SerViCe and SacriFice, she is very passionate and dedicated in giving back to the veteran community.
“I thought there’s this incredible gift to unwrap here,” said Kerri Tadeu, co-founder of SerViCe and SacriFice, who then wanted to team up with Lachine to bring these courses to the veteran community.
Tadeu, MCpl. Collin Fitzgerald, also co-founder of SerViCe and SacriFice, and Lachine then came together to present their first joint Mental Health First Aid Course in early December in Ajax, ON.
The goal is to not only offer courses throughout the year but also as part of SerViCe and Sacrifice’s Highway of Heroes Symposium and highway cleanup.
Just as a physical first aid course, the mental health first aid course teaches participants about common mental health problems, signs and symptoms.
“What people find then is thatchy can recognize that in other people and an interesting side effect is that people start to recognize it in themselves as well,” noted Lachine.
The course also educates participants on how to engage someone who is struggling in a conversation and how to get them to the right resources and information.
“It’s a delicate matter. It’s something that needs practice, and we spend a little bit more time on it,” said Lachine.
Lachine says participants often leave changed and wondering why they hadn’t known about the program before.
“People are drawn to the title ‘Mental Health First Aid.’ It sort of resonates with people because we understand what physical first aid is, so they know what they’re in for. But when people go through the program they not only leave with tools, they leave with a changed mindset when it comes to engaging with other pole and they go ‘why have I gone so long without thinking this way,’ commented Lachine.
The course also has the added benefit of creating a community amongst the participants, and many walk away with lifelong friends. The community aspect of the program is something first responder Jason Burd knows firsthand. Burd took part in the course in December 2017, driving all the way from Ottawa to Ajax, ON for it.
“I learned and expanded my resources as far as what I can do for myself and what I can do for other people just by what Sherry had to offer and also by the other people in the group who contributed, in terms of some of the resources they’ve used,” said Burd.
Burd, the grandson of a military veteran, has been a firefighter in Ottawa for 23 years. In 2006, Burd was working on a rooftop with his colleagues when one of his co-workers fell through. Because he was anticipating the fall, Burd was able to save his colleagues life, but the incident left him scarred deeply. Over the next several years, he battled with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and was in and out of many facilities.
“Everything I loved, serving the community, was torn away from me when I got os psychologically sick that I couldn’t be at work,” recalled Burd.
Last year, Burd entered a program with Project Trauma Support that gave him the lifeline he had been looking for. Thanks to Project Trauma Support, not only has he progressed in his fight against PTSD but he also now offers a peer support group.
Burd decided to take the Mental Health First Aid Course to bring those tools and knowledge back to his peer group.
As a firefighter, Burd knows the importance of physical first aid but knows how different mental health first aid is just from applying an initial bandaid.
“As a mental health first aider you apply that initial dressing. You know maybe you come across someone that tells you they’ve had suicidal thoughts, they have a plan, and you do what you to get them to the emergency, call the police do whatever you have to do. But then six hours later, they get discharged, or they don’t even get into the emergency and guess what you’re then a first aider again, and you’re going to be first aider for them for the rest of their lives,” noted Burd.
Burd believes that these kind of courses are what will pave the way for a better future for mental health.
“Promoting understanding and reducing stigma is how we’re going to change the future of mental health. It’s exactly this education that’s going to change the future, it starts with education,” said Burd.
To register for the Mental Health First Aid Course, contact Sherry Lachine at 613-484-2977 or [email protected]
The Mental Health First Aid Courses will take place in Kingston on the following dates:
Registration is ongoing. For more information on Mental Health First Aid training course in other parts of Canada visit their website.