[June 27, 2019 – Portage la Prairie] Today is PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) Awareness Day.
The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) has a lengthy history of advocating for and working with communities to provide support for veterans, military service members, and first responders dating all the way back to its beginning in 1918.
In response to current needs, CMHA in Manitoba has partnered with CMHA Saskatchewan and various first responders throughout the province to establish a Manitoba chapter of Operational Stress Injury Canada (OSI-CAN) beginning with a pilot in Portage la Prairie.
OSI-CAN is a peer-led operational stress injury and post-traumatic stress support program for veterans, military service members, and community first responders. The program was first developed in January 2016 by CMHA Saskatchewan in partnership with the Royal Canadian Legion Saskatchewan Command. The group seeks to empower and encourage its members to strive for recovery through peer and professional support. No diagnosis or referral is required to attend weekly support meetings.
“First responders play a vital role in ensuring public safety and well-being,” Sean Miller, CMHA Central Executive Director comments“at times, exposure to extraordinary and unexpected challenges in the line of duty results in trauma related injuries with varying degrees of impact on the ability to carry out those duties. Creating a network of peers to support those who have sworn to serve and protect others enacts a fundamental right to accessible care and helps to mitigate the long-term debilitating effects of trauma.”
Although considered a self-directed, non-clinical, and evidence-based approach, research suggests that peer support can provide benefits equal to those of traditional medical interventions. For individuals seeking help, it is important to note that peer support is not intended as a replacement for but rather a complement to existing clinical treatment options.
Corrections officer and peer group facilitator, Kim Espey comments on the importance of the peer setting, “Being in a safe and confidential environment with people who actually ‘get it,’ is an invaluable part of the recovery process. When openly sharing among peers you quickly realize that all of the trauma symptoms you have been attempting to hide are actually quite normal in the first responder world.” Espey continues, “I encourage all those who suspect they may be dealing with the effects of an OSI to attend a meeting. There’s no set agenda or treatment protocol- you are accepted as you are without judgement, expectations or any pressure to just ‘suck it up.’”
The group will commence weekly meetings on July 18thin Portage la Prairie. For more info please visit:
The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is a nation-wide organization that promotes the mental health of all and supports the resilience and recovery of people experiencing a mental health illness. CMHA accomplishes this mission through advocacy, education, research and service delivery.
CMHA Central Region has dedicated itself to improving the quality of life and services available for people living with mental health and addictions issues, including families and natural supports.
To arrange an interview please contact: