Bernie Van Tighem hopes to start a support network for first responders suffering from PTSD in the Elk Valley.

Trauma support for first responders coming to the Elk Valley

Elkford local and Fire Chief, Bernie Van Tighem, is part of an emergency responder group who are raising concerns about PTSD.

Elkford local and Fire Chief, Bernie Van Tighem, is part of an emergency responder group who are raising concerns and awareness for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and non-diagnosed trauma that first responders deal with regularly.

“There is a group of us first responders across Canada, there was a call that went out for people to help with this a few months back,” said Van Tighem. “I am in Elkford, I’m the Fire Chief but I’ve been off for almost a year now with PTSD and depression myself.”

While Van Tighem is a fire fighter, the movement is for all first responder services throughout Canada.

“It was lead by a paramedic from the Peel region in Ontario. We have been working on this for a few months, a bunch of paramedics, police, fire, dispatch and some nurses. Basically the idea is peer driven support, like peer meetings, where we develop a model that is currently being used by police services,” said Van Tighem.

The peer support and meetings is not intended for only diagnosed PTSD responders.

“There does not need to be any diagnoses or mental health injury. We get together on a regular basis and go through a process that helps,” said Van Tighem. “I think that one of the best pieces of medicine is to open up with peers – finding out that others have the same difficulties and knowing that you are not alone.”

When Van Tighem came out with his PTSD and depression, he shocked some of his colleagues. He was a pillar in the first responder community and was combating his depression for over 30 years. While it may shock some people, many fellow workers in the first responder industry retire early due to trauma.

“It floored a lot of people when I went off sick. I was hiding it so well for years I think there needs to be more knowledge out there and that it is impacting real people,” said Van Tighem. “One thing you will find out about ambulance services is that retired usually means burnt out and destroyed. The have left because they can no longer handle it.”

He intends to create a monthly meeting where fellow first responders can come and share stories. According to Van Tighem, there are numerous first responders in the area that could potentially benefit from the program. Participants can come once or come monthly, whatever they need.

“There are probably 150 plus firefighters, 60 or 70 paramedics and EMR’s, I have no idea on cops, maybe 30 or 40 in the Elk Valley, I think there will be people that need this,” said Van Tighem. “Someone can walk into a meeting and sit down and dump all their feelings out there. Then they leave with their shoulders lightened and never come back. Then there will also be people that will come every month. The idea is to have a group that may only have 15 people but it rotates through helping everyone that needs it.”

The program that is being implemented is based on the framework of a similar police program intended to deal with job related stress and anxiety. The group’s champions are still reworking the police program to include all first responders.

“We are just kicking this off. Our group has run the meetings. We get together on Skype and we run through a meeting and adjust as we go. What we are doing is based on Robins Blue Circle, which was created by a police officer in Ontario. The model we follow is similar and has been used for a few years now.”

The program is gaining public backing and continues to raise awareness for first responders with and without diagnosed PTSD. The first Wings of Change Peer Support Model  meeting in B.C. will be held at the Sparwood Firehall at 7 p.m. on Feb, 12th.


Just Posted

VIDEO: Explorers uncover Canada’s deepest cave in Fernie

The cave, named Bisaro Anima, was confirmed to have broken the record on New Year’s Day

New Glade ferry enters testing phase

The Glade II will be able to carry heavier loads and will use less greenhouse gases.

Freezing rain warning in effect for B.C. Southern Interior

Environment Canada issued the freezing rain warning for most of the Southern Interior Tuesday morning

Rumble In The Rockies brings live boxing back to Fernie

Local boxer, Dylan Mitchell takes first career win at home

Smiles all around as province announces emergency ward funding

$2.1 million to go to much-needed upgrades

VIDEO: Orcas put on a show near Hornby Island

Louis Jobodin shares photos and video of his experience

Body discovered in burnt out car near Trail

Police report a body was found in the burnt out trunk of a 1999 Honda Civic

VIDEO: B.C. Lions sign defensive back T.J. Lee to contract for upcoming season

The four-year veteran had a team-high four interceptions and 49 tackles last season with B.C.

How an immigrant to Canada helped Donald Trump prove his mental health

Test that cleared Trump was developed by doctor associated with McGill and Sherbrooke universities

Premier touches on multiple topics ahead of Asia trade trip

Housing and childcare are expected to be the focus of the BC NDP’s first budget in February.

UPDATE: Friends mourn boy, 15, killed in Vancouver shooting

John Horgan: ‘No stone is to be left unturned until we find the perpetrator of this heinous crime’

Vernon to host largest Special Olympics B.C. Winter Games in 2019

Games to be held Feb. 21-23, with more than 800 athletes expected to take part

Ex-BC Liberal staffer focused on ‘favourable’ ethnic communities in scandal: lawyer

Former communications director Brian Bonney’s sentencing hearing for breach of trust is underway

Sunwing vacation passengers left at Abbotsford airport

YXX staffers receive praise for help to passengers; airline criticized

Most Read