A variety of resources were introduced at a recent Emergency Worker Mental Health Resources Symposium in Leduc on Tuesday, January 22nd. This week the SCFPSA website will publish notes on the speaker’s topics.
The A.S.K Support Network was presented by Mike Skinner. Outspoken about the time, relationships, and happiness he lost to PTSD, Mike has created a space in which all first responders – Police, Military, Fire, Paramedics, Emergency Dispatchers, and Peace Officers – can meet monthly in support. On the third Sunday of every month, the ASK Network books their local legion and they basically kick everyone out – no bartenders, no musicians who aren’t also First Responders, no one at all who might overhear them and not understand the sensitivities around the conversations. Holding this meeting at the Legion is key as First Responders from all walks of life feel it is a neutral location (instead of at a Fire Hall or Police Station, for example, which might be considered another’s “turf”).
The First Responders simply sit around a table and have a beer or coffee, watch a hockey game or listen to music, and talk as a group. No topic is off limits but they work together to follow best medical advice around reducing triggering or unhealthy thought patterns. It’s not about sharing war stories or trying to “one-up” one another – Mike was clear about how those patterns of conversations actually diminish communication as it can cause a sense of competition. The group is just talking things out and lending support to one another.
Mike spoke about how this group helped him in partnership with the therapy he attended. He said while therapy is important, he often felt frustrated because as soon as he felt comfortable enough to really start to share, his hour would be up. In contrast, the A.S.K Support Network has a full four hours to talk and can feel more cathartic for some. Members of the group have forged strong bonds and celebrated growth in recovery together, healing relationships and finding joy again in their lives and careers.
Strathcona County First Responders are warmly welcomed to join this group in Leduc (only 45 minutes away). Please share this information with your member if you think he or she would be interested in attending or learning more about the network.