Inaugural First Responders Mental Health Conference

Helping First Responders Navigate Traumatic Situations


How can firefighters and other public safety personnel confront personal trauma in themselves while trying to help others?

Firefighters, paramedics, and law enforcement officers experience traumas and stressors on the job that are unlike those seen in most other occupations. It’s not surprising, therefore, that recent research has shown that these workers are at higher risk of mental health injuries. The agencies that employ first responders are tasked with how to best support their mental health — from determining appropriate training for first responders and their managers, to sourcing occupationally aware practitioners, to aiding with recovery and hope through peer support.

It is this reality that led to the formation of the BC First Responders Mental Health Committee — a multi-agency committee representing labour and management from both urban and rural communities. The committee is working collaboratively to provide cross-organizational leadership, recommend practices, and develop resources that promote positive mental health for first responders across the province.

Finding Wisdom in the Wound of Trauma

The roots and paths of trauma are complex and sometimes surprising. The approaches that people follow in their search for healing reflect the diversity and resilience of human character. Trauma can be a burden, an opening, a source of wisdom, and many other things. The path of healing does not lead us back to the person we once were. Trauma changes us, shapes us, creates new perspectives for us, and perhaps, even new values. These changes do not feel positive as they are happening. But authentic trauma healing also involves recognizing that wisdom lies hidden inside the wound — that meaning and purpose are to be found through the experience. How do we find the wisdom, meaning, and purpose to carry us forward?

My presentation offered positive suggestions and directions for trauma healing, based on my research with the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York City, the War Childhood Museum in Sarajevo, and other projects around the world focused on trauma recovery and healing.

A video of my presentation appears below.


Ross Laird, PhD RCC

Clinical Consultant, Author, Educator

My work focuses on the interconnected themes of mental health, trauma, addictions, and creativity. I provide clinical consulting, professional development services, and community education for a wide range of institutions and organizations.