By Chad Ingram
Algonquin Highlands has instituted a mental health policy to help any of its volunteer firefighters who may need it.
Fire chief Mike Cavanagh brought the policy forward during an Oct. 1 council meeting.
“It’s a step in the right direction there’s obviously a lot of work being done at the provincial level as well” Cavanagh said explaining a provincial program that is to be rolled out over the next year. “I envision this to evolve.”
The policy outlines steps firefighters can take if they’ve been through a traumatic incident from talking to one another in a group setting about their experiences to contacting the chief to get professional help if required.
Cavanagh said discussions about mental health are also part of training.
Councillors were pleased with the policy.
“There have been in the past a couple of firefighters who have left the volunteer fire service” said Reeve Carol Moffatt. “Some things they’ve seen and experienced they just couldn’t get past and I think it often goes unrecognized that while volunteer firefighters are seen as the backbone of their communities they have also seen some pretty rough stuff and it’s important to have the guidance to blow off that steam or get the help they need.”
Councillor Marlene Kyle thought changing societal attitudes toward mental health issues meant members might be more willing to talk openly about any problems they are experiencing.
“I think the timing is really good on this because mental health issues are so in the public now and it’s becoming more widely accepted” Kyle said.