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Mental Health Resiliency for First Responders

*Looking for the First Responder Mental Health Resilience Conference? Click here!

WRHSAC recognizes the greatest assets in any first responder organization are first responders themselves. First responders encounter stressful situations on a daily basis. Their experiences of potentially traumatic incidents are greater than those seen in most other occupations. This reality places tremendous stress on the nervous system and overall health of leadership and team members.

WRHSAC is committed to the emotional, physical and spiritual well-being of the first responder workforce. Our aim is to provide mental health resilience resources for those who dedicate themselves to protecting and serving others.

Project History

In early 2019, WRHSAC embarked on the First Responder Mental Health Resiliency project. Conversations with regional stakeholders and research on available best practices led WRHSAC to determine that a program to assist leadership in developing and fostering positive mental health work environments would be key to building individual and team mental health resiliency.

WRHSAC’s approach is modeled on British Columbia, Canada’s WorkSafeBC First Responders’ Mental Health Committee.

We are grateful to WorkSafe BC for their generosity in sharing their expertise, materials and their ongoing support of our project.

WRHSAC engaged two mental health clinician consultants familiar with the unique concerns of first responders to engage with the WorkSafeBC project and to adapt it to the needs of western Massachusetts first responder team members and agencies. As experienced mental health clinicians, our facilitators Calla Harrington LCSW, MSW, MPH and Lillian Lennox LMHC, MA, C-iRest, E-RYT 500 bring important mental health definitions, concepts and offer a multidisciplinary approach drawing from many perspectives.

This comprehensive resilience project provides first responders, leadership and families with evidence-based resources specifically created to reduce mental health stigma, prevent psychological stress injury and support mental health resilience.

From inception, this project was designed to identify the specific needs of western Massachusetts first responders. The first phase of the project involved gathering information through a series of focus groups. Ideas and priorities generated by the focus groups continue to guide the ongoing phases of the project. Focus group participants alerted us to the need for more advanced mental health resilience trainings, together with a conference that would make such resources available to the entire public safety community.

This collaborative effort produced the following free trainings and conference event:

WRHSAC FRMH Resilience Project: Current Offerings

The Building Healthy Workplaces advanced mental health resilience trainings, offered in two parts:

1) The first training is the Introduction to Building Healthy Workplaces for First Responders: How to Promote Mental Health in First Responder Organizations

This online, self-paced introductory course orients students to concepts of mental health, trauma and resilience through common terminology, concepts, signs and symptoms and practical skills.

Click here to access the course.

This online training is a prerequisite for participating in the Building Healthy Workplaces leadership session series.

2) The second training, Building Healthy Workplaces: How to promote mental health in first responder organizations, provides the basis to support first responder leadership towards promoting positive mental wellbeing within their organizations.

Participation in Building Healthy Workplaces is prioritized for first responder leadership in western Massachusetts. Submitted applications will be reviewed to ensure participants are in a leadership role. Attendance at all four sessions is recommended. This is an interactive training and access to audio and visual capabilities are required.

The next session of Building Healthy Workplaces leadership sessions will be offered ‘live’ online via Zoom over four consecutive Thursdays in February, 2023, from 10:00 to 12:00.


3) WRHSAC, with coordination leadership from project consultant Lillian Lennox,  continues the second phase of the project with the development of WRHSAC’s inaugural First Responder Mental Health Resilience Conference, which is being conducted virtually throughout October 2022.

The FRMH Resilience Conference is intended for police, fire, EMS, military/veterans, corrections, dispatchers, chaplains, retired first responders, family members, professional staff, clinicians, and all who work in the public safety field.

The conference will introduce a line-up of nationally recognized featured speakers and workshops offering dynamic and engaging presentations for the entire public safety community on subjects including: psychophysiological research; behavioral & brain science; strategies to regulate the nervous system; stress survival skills; enhancing wellness and resiliency through peer support; holistic wellness practices; how to identify moral injury and much more, delivered by top quality experts in the field.

Overall, our conference will offer a message of optimism and professional sustainability. Our goal is to reach beyond the traditional “code of silence” regarding mental health, and face these challenges head on, through providing practical skills.

Our conference will provide resources for organizations, individuals, and family members with an emphasis on practical drills and skills. This conference series will be conducted virtually on consecutive Thursdays, October 6, 13, 20, 27, 2022, from 10.00 am – 2.30 pm.

Click here for the FRMH Resilience Conference

4) In closing, continuing with the focus groups identified needs, we are currently engaged in a comprehensive search for an advanced mental health resilience training that will offer holistic mind body based skills/drills strategies for western Massachusetts first responders. Research demonstrates holistic skills provide protection against psychological stress injury, while supporting healing and integration. Recommendation from this search will be forthcoming December, 2022.