The first-of-its kind mental health conference for first responders gets underway in Richmond today, with representation from the Cariboo-Chilcotin. Monica Lamb-Yorski file photo

Cariboo-Chilcotin representatives attending first responders mental health conference in Richmond

Lac La Hache fire chief is on the steering committee

Lac La Hache’s fire chief hopes a mental health conference for first responders in Richmond, taking place Jan. 31 and Feb.1, will raise awareness.

“I’m hoping there will be more awareness on first responders’ mental health. It’s been a long time coming,” said Terry Murphy, one of 16 people on the B.C. First Responders’ Mental Health Committee steering committee organizing the conference. “We don’t get paged out for a happy situation. We get paged because somebody is having the worst day of their life.”

Calls range from rescues to fatalities and can require different coping mechanisms, he added.

“Some people are stronger than others and there are a lot of resources out there to help. In Lac La Hache we usually bring in counsellors to debrief for the mental aspects if it’s been a more serious event.”

Murphy has been the president of the Volunteer Firefighters Association of B.C. for the last year and was the vice-president before that.

“Roughly 70 per cent of firefighters in B.C. are volunteers,” he said, noting he has been chief of the Lac La Hache Volunteer Fire Dept. for eight years.

Murphy said they are testing the waters with this first-ever conference and planning to host more conferences in the future.

Read more: 350 B.C. first responders to gather and talk about their mental health

“We want to move it around so it’s not always focused in Vancouver. We might look as a committee putting one on in Kamloops and then maybe up in Prince George or further north.”

Trudi Rondou, WorkSafeBC senior manager, industry and labour services, chairs the B.C. First Responders’ Mental Health Committee.

The committee is comprised of firefighters, police, paramedics, dispatchers, paid and volunteers.

“Terry is a fantastic resource for us and a great advocate,” she said of Murphy’s role on the committee.

The conference sold out, she added.

“We have 350 people attending, 50 speakers and sponsors and a waiting list of 100 people.”

Delegates are coming from all over B.C., across Canada and a few people from Florida.

“I’m curious to know how they heard about it in Florida,” Rondou added.

“It’s been such a great response. I think it’s the right time for people to be talking about this issue.”

In early 2018, the committee determined to host the conference, and have been working on it ever since.

Rondou said she hopes people leave with practical tools and knowledge so they can go back home and do things differently.

“We are trying to break down the stigma so people feel comfortable talking about mental health and understanding the first step is you have to talk about it in order to get help.”

Two of the speakers attending are Dr. Stephanie Conn from Oregon, a former police officer and author of Increasing Resilience in Police and Emergency Personnel andChief Bobby Halton, a former fire chief from New Mexico who will talk about reducing stigma.

“Those are just a couple, but we’ve got a lineup for the two days of great ones.”

Stephanie Masun, Cariboo Regional District manager of protective services said she is looking forward to attending the conference on behalf of the region.

“It is such an important topic and I want to make sure we have the tools at the regional district to support our first responders in the critical and challenging work they do,” Masun said. “I’m hoping to bring back some new knowledge and resources that I can share with our CRD volunteer fire and search and rescue departments, but also with our partner agencies who respond to crises and emergencies.”

Read more: Video: BC-born firefighter remembered by MP in emotional speech



news@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

From the court to coaching: Kody Worden

‘Basketball has brought me a lot of joy and I hope it does the same for the students I coach’

Williams Lake City Council and community advocacy leads to GPS monitoring of six prolific offenders

Counc. Scott Nelson said he is happy at this result and hopes to build on momentum

Off-duty Burnaby officer helps apprehend Cache Creek car thief fleeing towards Clinton

‘This is just one example of how we are always ready to respond to emergencies’

Clothing, jewelry, purses: RCMP ask court about disposal of evidence in Robert Pickton case

Pickton was sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 25 years for the murders of six women

Wet’suwet’en herreditary chiefs meet with provincial, federal ministers

Neither party speaking on the groundwork laid for tomorrow’s talks

Speaker ‘will not tolerate illegal activity’ on B.C. legislature grounds, says chief of staff

Chief of staff to the B.C. speaker Alan Mullen says situation with demonstrators appears ‘fluid’

MPs to examine privacy implications of facial-recognition technology used by RCMP

The MPs will look at how the technology affects the privacy, security and safety of children

Dates back to 2009: Calgary police lay charges in fraud involving semi-trucks

Three people from Calgary are facing charges that include fraud over $5,000

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs optimistic ahead of talks with feds, province

Discussions with provincial and federal governments expected to start later today

‘The project is proceeding’: Horgan resolute in support of northern B.C. pipeline

B.C. premier speaks as talks scheduled with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs

BREAKING: Kelowna RCMP to further investigate 12 sexual assault cases, create sexual assault unit

Recommendations come five months after it was revealed 40% of sexual assaults were deemed ‘unfounded’

Most Read