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The Windsor Essex First Responder Coalition seeks to develop a unified and collaborative approach to building resilience, reducing stigma, and promoting mental wellbeing in First Responders. As a direct result of doing their job, First Responders are at increased risk of experiencing occupational stress and other mental health issues. In recognition of this, the partners work together to develop strategies and programs to address the continuum of mental health issues known to impact First Responders. Learn More >


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First Responder Artist Daniel Sun How a first responder’s creative process healed his professional trauma   By Kathy Sullivan, Expressive Arts Consultant, MAAT, R.E.A.C.E. at Ashes2Art   Have you checked out Dan Sun’s artwork? No!? Then let us have the pleasure of introducing you to his brilliance. The word brilliance describes more than just his technique and actually dives deeper into his fearless journey into processing his experiences meticulously through the creative process. Dan’s artwork exemplifies the ultimate mastery of self-care in the tireless world of the emergency services. Being a Canadian firefighter and paramedic, Dan realized during an emotional wellness lecture that he was experiencing PTSD symptoms and bravely chose to seek assistance. Being a firefighter takes courage and fearlessness but diving into emotional issues by a first responder defines an element of tenacity that is unrivaled by most. Dan’s journey toward recovery organically evolved into using his love of photography with graphic art to depict real life images from the job that needed a deeper method of processing. Since traumatic images can become  “stuck” in the psyche the creative arts can be used to process through these images since BOTH sides of the brain are being used during this process. Additionally, the creative arts can externalize an image which naturally provides a distance from the situation that can be cognitively processed. Dan processes his internal images and externally recreates it digitally with power, purpose, and symbolism. Brilliant practice of self-care through the creative arts. Check out these two images… The juxtaposition of the symbolism is profound. There is a symbolic struggle between the impact that life and death has on a first responder which can also result in the inner struggle between choosing life or death when the emotional impact weighs too heavily on the soul.  All disciplines of the emergency services profession are effected by the reality of the job. It is critical that we take care of ourselves first in order to remain fit for the job. Dan’s work is the gift that keeps on giving. It provides a familiarity for fellow responders to feel more connected and bonded through this concrete recreation of a relatable experience as an emergency services professional. It also educates the civilian to the intense impact that the job can have on the first responder which is necessary for a deeper level of understanding and support from the public. In addition to being a brilliant practice of self-care, Dan’s artwork  promotes growth and awareness by anyone who views his pieces. While helping himself to get through the job of helping others, he is helping even more people through his journey. A life well lived…..Creative Uses of Dan’s Artwork: A. Choose one of Dan’s pieces and use it as a tool to promote dialog and processing as an individual or as a group. Can you relate to this experience or a part of this image? Notice your breathing and areas of stress in your body when discussing the image? Breathe into those stressed areas and make sure you are breathing deeply. B. Write about one of Dan’s pieces and the feelings evoked. Writing is a creative act that can give some cognitive distance while processing information. C. Draw or paint your own experience without judgement on your ability. Just do it! Get it out onto paper then keep it as is or rip the image into strips of paper and create an entirely different piece of art.   — Published on February 12, 2021

Suicide is the act of causing one’s own death intentionally and is often related to complex mental health issues, stressors, and substance abuse. Unfortunately, suicide is one of the top ten leading causes of death in Canada and claims thousands of lives every year. Regardless of one’s age or gender, people who are struggling and experience loss of hope in their lives often resort to suicide. Fortunately, suicide can be prevented.   There are many signs and symptoms of people who are at risk for suicide, including:   Increased use of substance abuse Sudden changes in mood and behaviour Expressing the desire to die or end one’s life Displaying hopelessness or helplessness Preparing for their death (for example giving away their belongings, writing a will, writing letters to loved ones) Change in regular behaviour such as decreased appetite or a change in sleeping patterns   It can be challenging to find the relationship between some of these warning signs and suicide. In this article, we will highlight substance abuse as a dimension of suicide.   What Is Substance Abuse?   Substance use is on a spectrum from helpful to harmful, and when the use of substances like alcohol and drugs becomes harmful it is considered abuse. The addictive nature of substances can be a contributing factor to substance abuse, making it difficult for someone to quit. It is important to note that substance use can have an impact on mental health and vice versa.   Understanding the Relationship Between Substance Abuse and Suicide   When discussing suicide, it is important to note that the misuse of drugs and alcohol is a prominent risk factor for suicide, especially among youth. It is difficult to understand the relationship between addictions, overdose, substance abuse, and suicide; however, there are many theories as to why this relationship exists.   According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there is an increased suicide risk for people with prevalent mental illnesses who have substance abuse disorders as substances can negatively affect one's mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing. There is an interconnected relationship between mental health issues such as depression, addiction to substances, and suicide. One reason for this is that people with depression may turn to substances like drugs and alcohol to numb their pain; however, sometimes the use of these substances increases the severity of depressive and suicidal thoughts. Substance misuse can severely impact one’s judgement which can lead to suicidal attempts.   Reducing the Risk of Suicide   While suicide is a preventable cause of death, it is important to note that it cannot be prevented in all cases. Some strategies that can be applied to reducing the risk of suicide include:   Seeking treatment for yourself or a loved one with substance abuse Building strong support networks such as family, friends, and peer, support groups Seeking care for mental health concerns, such as an increase in suicidal thoughts Having a sense of responsibility Developing positive coping skills   Helpful Resources   If you or someone you know is suffering from suicidal thoughts, it is important to seek immediate help. There are many helpful resources to understanding suicide prevention, and support tools:   We Help First: Preventing Suicide CAMH: Suicide Prevention CAMH 24 Hour Crisis Line Kids Help Phone We Help First: Understanding Substance Abuse National Institute of Mental Health: Suicide Prevention Peer Support Canada Windsor Crisis Centre  

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