#KeepingThemStrong: supporting the resilience of Canada's public safety personnel

By External Relations Posted: April 5, 2019 10:00 a.m.

Through initiatives including #KeepingThemStrong, Canadians rallied to support the mental well-being of those front-line public safety personnel and volunteer first responders impacted by the tragic Humboldt Broncos bus crash on April 6, 2018. Funds raised provide much-needed access to evidence-based mental health care that would otherwise be unavailable.
Through initiatives including #KeepingThemStrong, Canadians rallied to support the mental well-being of those front-line public safety personnel and volunteer first responders impacted by the tragic Humboldt Broncos bus crash on April 6, 2018. Funds raised provide much-needed access to evidence-based mental health care that would otherwise be unavailable. |

In the wake of the unthinkable Humboldt Broncos tragedy, a bus accident which claimed the lives of 16 people, injured 13 and touched millions, our nation and the world grieved.

Amid the heartbreak, communities came together to show their overwhelming support by sewing the “Humboldt Broncos” logo on their hockey jerseys, placing hockey stick memorials on their front porches, offering their condolences to the victims’ families, and making contributions to support the team and families impacted.

Although most of us did not have to witness the immediate aftermath of the event, we could not forget those who did – those emotionally affected who will have to live with the horrific memories for the rest of their lives. Police, RCMP, fire fighters, paramedics, dispatchers, and other public safety personnel, as well as volunteer first responders, were all exposed to a reality few of us can imagine.

A year later, along with the family and friends of those on the bus, public safety personnel continue to feel the effects of that afternoon.

“The impact of this tragedy is likely far-reaching and long-lasting,” says Dr. Nicholas Carleton, professor in the Department of Psychology who is familiar with the real-life stories of the despair and stress experienced by public safety personnel who put their lives on the line every day to keep others safe.

“Common reactions include distress, sadness, anxiety, and grief, among others, all of which can be normal responses to tragedies. There is also evidence that some may go on to develop symptoms consistent with one or more different mental health disorders or injuries.”

As scientific director of the University of Regina’s Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and

hockey sticks

In true Canuck fashion,
Canadians from coast to coast
to coast and citizens from
countries around the world,
displayed their solidarity with
the families, loved ones, and
teammates of the 16 people
killed and 13 others injured
in the Humboldt Broncos bus
crash one year ago. Around
the world hockey sticks were
placed on front porches as
poignant memorials to
those lost.

Treatment (CIPSRT), internationally recognized for its work in post-traumatic stress disorder and other operational stress injuries amongst public safety personnel and their families, Dr. Carleton knew the University was uniquely positioned to support activities related to mental health. In light of this knowledge, the University endeavored to raise funds to support the public safety personnel involved in the Broncos accident.

The University of Regina’s #KeepingThemStrong fundraising campaign was aimed at directly supporting the delivery of evidence-based treatment and peer-support programming for the heroic public safety personnel involved in the emergency response to the April 6 crash.

The community acted immediately and generously, raising funds to help those dedicated to saving the lives of others.

“The funds raised have already directly supported the mental health of several public safety personnel by providing much-needed access to evidence-based care that would otherwise have been unavailable,” says Dr. Carleton. “I am extremely grateful to all who gave, because I know that the funds raised are sufficient to continue such support for the exceptional Canadians who served selflessly during the tragedy.”

To sum up the emotions that motivated people to give, Don Coulter, President and CEO of Concentra Bank – one of the first #KeepingThemStrong donors, who led the way with a generous gift of $10,000 – puts into words what the campaign means to him and the organization he leads.

“Our hearts were broken with news of the Humboldt Broncos tragedy. It shook our province and the entire country, leaving a collective feeling of helplessness. We remain mindful of those who were there to help – the first responders and other public safety personnel whose lives are forever changed because of their selfless response that day,” says Coulter.

“These people embody the very best of humanity. They were courageous and determined, and we are deeply grateful,” he continues. “Concentra’s contribution to #KeepingThemStrong was offered as a meaningful way to support their healing and recovery, and to demonstrate our deepest appreciation for their heroism.”

A year on, as Canadians and citizens from around the world pause to reflect on the Humboldt Broncos tragedy, let’s remember, too, our nation’s front-line public safety personnel and do what we can to keep them strong and resilient in the face of traumatic events they can experience on the job every day. 

For more information on the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment at the University of Regina, please visit https://www.cipsrt-icrtsp.ca/.