A new program that has been in the works for well over a year is finally available to public safety personnel in Saskatchewan and Quebec.
PSPNET was created at the U of R and is a free-to-use virtual program that provides online learning tools and regular email or phone support from a therapist with the goal of addressing and dealing with mental health concerns.
Mike Russell, Deputy Fire Chief with the Moose Jaw Fire Department, says he was contacted about 18 months ago about the program and was asked if the fire department would be interested in taking part. He immediately accepted and got all four platoons within the fire department involved.
"We're turning a page in time here where we're trying to move forward into the future. In our line of work, we do see a lot of different things that the normal person wouldn't see. The old school train of thought back when I started was 'You know what you're getting yourself into', now we're telling people 'It's OK not to be OK.'"
Russell says that feedback so far has been very positive from what he's heard and that the program can help with everything from anxiety to depression, PTSD, and more. The program is 100 per cent confidential and is available 24 hours a day.
"We're called at people's times of need, and we're called when people are at their worst and we can't go out and help those people if we are sending out broken people ourselves. The main focus for me here since I came to this organization is I want to protect our people and I want to make sure they're ok so that when we do send them out, we're sending out the best quality individuals we can to help the people and citizens of Moose Jaw."
He went on to say that mental health among emergency workers isn't something that is overlooked anymore and that over the last number of years they've been getting the message out that it's OK to need help. The department has a number of other programs already in place to help address mental health concerns, but having PSPNET available just adds another tool to their toolbox.