PEI

A card to call on: P.E.I. firefighters start program for bystander mental health

Some Island firefighters have started a new program to make sure your mental health is taken care of if you witness a traumatic event.

Information cards will be given out to witnesses at the scene of traumatic events

The double-sided cards provide numbers to call for help and tips on how to take care of yourself after a traumatic event. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC )

Some Island firefighters have started a new program to make sure your mental health is taken care of if you witness a traumatic event.

Metro Fire Prevention, which consists of the Charlottetown, Crossroads and North River Fire Departments will now be handing out cards to bystanders at the scene of accidents or other incidents. 

I know calls I've been on, I still think about that bystander that was involved really early on, and I wonder how they're doing.- Amanda Brazil, Canadian Mental Health Association

"Besides the victim there's always the witness. And we'll have a firefighter speak with that witness but when we leave the scene we never really know if that witness got the help that they needed," said Kory MacAusland of Crossroads Fire Department. 

The fire departments have partnered up with the Canadian Mental Health Association to create the double-sided card. On one side are the numbers of different services, on the other simple tips about what to do after you witness a traumatic event. MacAusland says many are surprised at the intensity of these events. 

Cindy MacFadyen, left, Kory MacAusland, middle, and Amanda Brazil, right, are happy about having the cards ready for bystanders in need. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC)

"People don't realize how violent an accident can be, just the sounds of metal crunching and tires squealing," he said.

"Unfortunately seeing an injured person for the first time, it's a little much to see."

Cindy MacFadyen, with the Charlottetown Fire Department, was thrilled to hop on board when she heard the idea. 

"We don't know what reaction it had on them, and you walk away and you're thinking about what they're thinking. So this way I think it's great that we'll be able to give them a little card and if they need help it's there."

Hard to forget

That sentiment was echoed by Amanda Brazil, director of programs and policy with the Canadian Mental Health Association, and also a firefighter with Crossroads. 

"I know calls I've been on, I still think about that bystander that was involved really early on, and I wonder how they're doing." 

The association has been working with and training firefighters in their own mental health. Brazil says that is now trickling down, and many first responders were wondering what could be done for the public. She says the card takes the pressure off approaching someone if the firefighter is not comfortable.

"We would far rather somebody have something they don't need in this card then not have the information and not know what to do."

Brazil hopes other Island fire departments will join the project, and encourages them to reach out to the Canadian Mental Health Association to do so.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Natalia Goodwin

Video Journalist

Natalia is a multi-platform journalist in Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador.

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