Our wildland firefighters work tirelessly around the clock in some of the most extreme conditions to protect people around our province. Leaving their own friends, family and community behind to protect others not only takes a physical toll but a mental toll as well. This program will ensure that there is support for our firefighters when they need it most and creates a foundation for their health and well-being going forward.

Firefighters can experience tremendous stress on the job, and it takes a toll on their mental health. That’s why we included mental-health injuries to the list of presumptive conditions that are eligible for fast-tracked workers’ compensation benefits specifically for firefighters. It is great to see another program added to help firefighters protect their well-being from stress.

Firefighters are often hesitant to seek help for their mental health due to stigma and shame. This support will make such a positive difference and will remind us that we are not alone. This program will save lives.

More B.C. firefighters will benefit from expanded psychological wellness program

More firefighters will learn how to develop and improve their mental-health resiliency through enhanced access to a psychological wellness training program.

The BC Occupational Awareness Training online program, administered by the BC Municipal Safety Association and First Responder Health, will be offered to BC Wildfire Service staff and include more training about how to manage daily stress and anxiety.

“Firefighters are there for us in the most trying times of our lives and it can take a toll on their own mental health,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “Because they are so used to helping others through high-stress situations, it can be challenging for some first responders to take the time to focus on their own mental health. By supporting this program, we are ensuring more first responders learn how to take care of their own mental health and build resiliency that will help them throughout their careers and lives.”

Launched in spring 2023, the online program is available to all municipal firefighters throughout the province and all BC Wildfire Services staff as of March 1, 2024. Phase 2 of the program, which includes 12 new training modules, will launch this summer.

“The BC Municipal Safety Association and its partners are looking forward to providing additional upstream mental-health training,” said Mike Roberts, chief executive officer, BC Municipal Safety Association. “Through proactive mental-health care, we can help prevent issues before they become more serious, fostering a healthier and more productive life and work environment for all B.C. firefighters.”

To date, more than 6,660 municipal firefighters have enrolled in the program.

The first year of the program focuses on helping firefighters understand mental health, learn how to manage stress and develop self-care strategies. It allows workers to watch a short video of 10-15 minutes from the series, followed by a guided crew discussion that is supported by a printable workbook. The videos and workbooks remain available online so firefighters who miss a session or join the department later can access these resources.

“The safety and well-being of our firefighters are of the utmost importance and we are committed to taking proactive measures to ensure their protection,” said Todd Schierling, president, BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Association (BCPFFA). “With the support of the ministry and the collaborative effort of other partners, we are enhancing training resources to safeguard firefighters from mental-health illnesses and injuries.”

The Province is investing more than $1 billion in new funding to ensure people living with mental-health or addiction challenges can find, access and stay connected to care, including $586 million for treatment and recovery services specifically.

Quick Facts:

  • To support the expansion of this program, the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions is investing $300,000 over two years.
  • The program’s goal is to make it easier and more acceptable for firefighters to seek help for mental-health challenges. It also aims to strengthen their resilience and help organizations better identify the kind of support they need.
  • This program is supported by the BC Professional Firefighters’ Association, Volunteer Firefighters’ Association of BC, BC Fire Training Officers Association and the Fire Chiefs’ Association of BC.

 Learn More:

To learn more about the Occupational Awareness Training:

https://www.firstresponderhealth.org/bcffoat

To learn more about the BC Professional Fire Fighter Association:

https://www.bcpffa.net/

Learn about mental-health and substance-use housing supports in British Columbia:

https://helpstartshere.gov.bc.ca/

Read the full News Release

MMHA news release (78 downloads )

 Contact:

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions

Media relations

778 584-1255

Connect with the Province of B.C. at: http://news.gov.bc.ca/connect