Calgary, AB,

First responders partner to raise awareness of suicide

Yesterday, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016, the Calgary Police Service, in partnership with the Calgary Fire Department, Alberta Health Services Emergency Medical Services, RCMP – K Division and Legacy Place Society, hosted the second annual First Responder Suicide Awareness Conference.

Occurring just days after World Suicide Prevention Day, which is held annually on Sept. 10, the conference was an opportunity to recognize the unique stressors first responders face while on the job. These stressors can lead to a decline in mental health.

The full-day conference brought together representatives from several first responder organizations, including police, fire, paramedics, corrections officers, sheriffs, military personnel, and 9-1-1 communications officers. The objectives of the conference were to offer clinical support, promote healthy mindfulness, and share compelling stories

“When we collaborate together, conferences such as this allows agencies and individuals to converge together, bringing common threads of conversation and epic feats of resiliency from within,” said Diana Festejo, Executive Director of Legacy Place Society.

More than 820 attendees listened to keynote speaker Kevin Hines share his story as one of a very small number of individuals to survive a suicide attempt off the Golden Gate Bridge. Other speakers included psychologists and first responders who shared their stories of resiliency. Participants also had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion and ask questions.

“Yesterday was about building community among first responders so we don’t suffer in silence, reduce stigma and demonstrate that asking for help shows true strength,” said Staff Sergeant Nadine Wagner, CPS Office of Inclusion, Development & Employee Engagement.

The conference is just one of the ways first responder organizations are combatting the stigma around mental illness.