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The Working Mind First Responders

The Working Mind First Responders (TWMFR) is an education-based program designed to address and promote mental health and reduce the stigma of mental illness in a first-responder setting.

Fellow fireman cheering up colleague | Un collègue pompier encourage un collègue

What is The Working Mind First Responders?

The Working Mind First Responders is a training program aimed to:

  • improve short-term performance and long-term mental health outcomes
  • reduce barriers to care and encourage early access to care
  • provide the tools and resources required to manage and support first responders who may be experiencing a mental illness; and
  • assist supervisors in maintaining their own mental health as well as promoting positive mental health in their employees

Goals

  • to support the mental health and wellbeing of first responders
  • to enable the full productivity of employees
  • to ensure the workplace is respectful and inclusive of all employees, including those with mental health problems and mental illness
  • to encourage first responders to seek help for mental health problems and mental illness
ambulance paramedic portrait | portrait d'ambulancier paramédical

Objectives

  • to examine the effects of mental health problems and mental illness in the workplace
  • to help first responders identify indicators of declining and poor mental health in themselves and others
  • to introduce the concept of the Mental Health Continuum Model
  • to review employees’, managers’, and employers’ mental health rights and responsibilities
  • to provide strategies to maintain good mental health

Central Components

  • The Mental Health Continuum Model, which categorizes one’s mental health within a continuum: green (healthy), yellow (reacting), orange (injured), and red (ill).
    • Allows individuals to identify indicators of declining or poor mental health in themselves, and others (without diagnostic labels and their associated stigma)
    • Stresses that individuals can move along the continuum; if one ends up in the red “ill” phase, he or she can move back towards the green “healthy phase”
    • Teaches the appropriate action one can take for themselves and for others at each point along the continuum.


  • Big 4” — a set of evidenced-based, cognitive behavioural therapy-based techniques that help individuals cope with stress and improve their mental health and resiliency. The Big 4 are positive self-talk, visualization, tactical breathing, and SMART goal setting.
  • Research indicates that contact-based education is one of the best ways of reducing stigma. TWMFR includes custom videos of people with mental illnesses describing some of their experiences with mental illness and stigma, as well as those who supported them and their journey to recovery. Click here to read our preliminary evaluations report.

Three tailored course options

Primary

Primary (4.5-hour course), where participants are provided with valuable information, skills, tools and resources specific to:

  • stigma and barriers to care
  • healthy coping strategies
  • mental toughness; and
  • The Mental Health Continuum Model, a self-assessment tool with indicators of positive, poor, and declining mental health. (Example of the Continuum Model featured below)

Leadership

Leadership (8 hour course), where in addition to the topics covered in the employee course, leaders acquire tools and skills specific to:

  • workplace accommodations and return to work
  • the role of leadership in promoting positive mental health in employees
  • ad hoc incident reviews; and
  • early recognition.
A multi-ethnic group of three paramedics hanging out at the rear of an ambulance, in front of the open doors, conversing. The focus is on the mature Hispanic woman on the left and the young African-American woman in the middle. | Un groupe multiethnique de trois ambulanciers paramédicaux traînant à l’arrière d’une ambulance, devant les portes ouvertes, en train de converser. L'accent est mis sur la femme hispanique mature à gauche et sur la jeune femme afro-américaine au milieu.
Happy cop agent smiling while on patrol in the police car on the street and enjoying law enforcement | Agent de police heureux souriant lors d'une patrouille dans la voiture de police dans la rue et profitant des forces de l'ordre

Train the Trainer

Train the Trainer (5-day course)

  • In an effort to promote sustainability, TWMFR is to be delivered as a 5-day, train-the-trainer model where participants become facilitators and deliver both training packages (8-hour and 4-hour) to their co-workers.
  • We recommend that organizations develop a roll out plan for implementation once the train-the-trainer session is complete.
  • Leaders are recommended to take the training before employees, or close to the employees taking it for consistency of content and discussions.
  • Facilitators are encouraged host workshops within a month of completing the train-the-trainer sessions.
  • Primary and Leadership courses should be limited to 24 participants to allow for full discussion.

UPCOMING COURSES ACROSS CANADA

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Latest News

“The credibility that the Mental Health Commission brings to Opening Minds programs was a key factor in our decision to implement The Working Mind for managers and MHFA.”
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