Introduction to Building Healthy Workplaces: How to Promote Mental Health in First Responder Organizations

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This Introduction to Building Healthy Workplaces for First Responders training provides background and overview of common mental health topics and an introduction to evidence-based information on how to include mental health resilience protocols as part of healthy first responder workplaces. 

Project Overview

First responders encounter stressful situations on a daily basis. Their experiences of potentially traumatic incidents are greater than those seen in most other occupations. They never know what any one call will bring and thereby often find themselves in a near constant state of high alert and vigilance. These conditions place tremendous stress on the nervous system and mental health of the first responder. 

The Western Region Homeland Security Advisory Council (WRHSAC) recognizes that the most valuable assets in any first responder agency are first responders themselves. In early 2019, WRHSAC embarked on a First Responder Mental Health Resiliency project. Conversations with regional stakeholders combined with research on available best practices led WRHSAC to the present initiative: to assist leadership in developing and fostering work environments that are positive and build resilience for first responder mental health. 

WRHSAC’s approach is modeled on the Building Mental Health Resilience in First Responders from Canada’s WorkSafeBC First Responders’ Mental Health Committee.

WRHSAC engaged two mental health clinicians familiar with the unique concerns of first responders to engage with the WorkSafeBC project and to adapt it to the needs of western Massachusetts first responder agencies. In December 2019 Calla Harrington LCSW, MSW, MPH and Lillian Lennox LMHC, MA, C-iRest, E-RYT 500, along with WRHSAC’s Program Manager Raine Brown, traveled to Vancouver, Canada to attend a BC First Responders Mental Health Workshop – Building Healthy Workplaces: How to promote mental health in first responder organizations.  The WorkSafeBC Committee and leaders were enthusiastic and gracious about sharing their resources, knowledge and time for the benefit of our first responder community. WRHSAC’s training includes content adapted from these resources. We thank WorkSafeBC Committee and British Columbia first responder leaders for their generosity and groundbreaking work. 

WRHSAC also thanks Western Massachusetts Focus Group participants who shared their expertise and experience within western Mass first responder agencies. We have incorporated their insights into recommended protocols, practices, resources, and lesson content through quotes and examples.

This training is funded by WRHSAC through the State Homeland Security Grant.

About the Facilitators

As mental health clinicians, Calla and Lillian bring important mental health definitions, concepts and practices to this training.  Additionally, they bring a multidisciplinary approach including:

  • Public Health
  • ICISM and CISM
  • International mental health and addictions practices
  • Emergency Room acute care practices
  • Trauma-Informed practices
  • First Responder Organization
  • Military and Veteran Organization
  • Paramilitary organizations including DHS
  • Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) practices.

About the Course

The Introduction to Building Healthy Workplaces for First Responders online training is a preface to a live online interactive training series, Building Healthy Workplaces: How to promote mental health in first responder organizations, that will offer deeper discussion and planning to support first responder leadership. By providing terms and definitions as well as examples in this introductory course, we hope to ease dialogue during the online training and in subsequent phases of this project. 

While designed with first responder leadership in mind, this online training is appropriate for anyone interested in a deeper understand of mental health resiliency and an introduction to organizational best practices. This online training is a prerequisite for leadership interested in the Building Healthy Workplaces: How to promote mental health in first responder organizations four session training series. 

The quizzes, resource list, and writing portions will help you retain, process and apply information to your workplace.  We will address the questions, concerns, and insights you share in the written portions during the four session training series. We have also included a glossary to help readers understand terms that will appear as a hyperlink throughout the course.

Building Healthy Workplaces: How to promote mental health in first responder organizations will be delivered as a four session series, conducted over four consecutive weeks, via Zoom ‘live’ online.  Launch date is late January 2021. This virtual series is designed specifically for first responder leadership to support their efforts to promoting positive mental health in their organizations. 

Please note: This training is not designed to provide or replace psychological or medical treatment. If you or a colleague needs assistance or treatment, please seek the services of an occupationally aware professional.