NORTH DURHAM: The Wings of Change Peer Support Group for first responders will have its first meeting on June 15th, at the Sunderland Town Hall.
The group is for anyone with an occupation in: the military; police force; fire department; health care; or any profession dealing with traumas or death.
The group is for and facilitated by peers: who have experienced similar traumatic calls or events; and who want to hear, or give, suggestions on how to improve, or maintain, their mental health.
Meetings are anonymous and participants of the meetings do not require a diagnosis of a mental illness to attend. The focus of the groups is a solution based discussion and education, regarding occupational trauma.
Tonia Ferguson, wife of a first responder, and organizer of the peer support group, said, “They are talking to people who will understand them better. It’s very hard for someone who isn’t a first responder to understand what they go through and see on a daily basis. They are dealing with people on their worst days of their lives.”
She said it is important for members of the group to be among peers who understand and have lived the traumas first responders experience. It makes them feel less isolated when they know others are going through similar situations.
“The most important thing is that they feel like they’re not alone and the feelings that they have are not just theirs.” Mrs. Ferguson said. “Just knowing they’re not alone can certainly make them feel a lot better.”
The Wings of Change group has been supported by the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Wings of Change has 16 other locations across Canada, according to Mrs. Ferguson.
She said a great aspect of the program is, those from the area, who may be uncomfortable going to the North Durham Peer Support Group, can access the other local Wings of Change chapters in Orillia, Mississauga, or Barrie. Attendees don’t have to be actively going through occupational stress to attend.
The group is also looking for people with lots of experience in the field, who have found good coping mechanisms for occupational trauma, to share their ideas and experiences.
Meetings take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., on the third Thursday of the month. The first meeting is on June 15th, at the Sunderland Town Hall. The location of the meetings, change month to month. For more information visit the Wings of Change North Durham Peer Support Group on Facebook, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.