Building resilience in volunteer firefighters: Bridging the research to practice gap
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There are approximately 14,000 firefighters in British Columbia (BC); notably, over 10,000 are volunteers or paid-on-call. The volunteer fire rescue services (FRS) globally tend to be vastly under-resourced in terms of equipment, apparatus, and training yet the volunteer FRS are the life-blood of the majority of communities in BC. The FRS is considered a high-risk profession in relation to physical and psychological hazards faced by firefighters as part of their job. Volunteer FRS are challenged to maintain an engaged volunteer membership when the work of firefighters is unpredictable, risky, and takes time away from family, work, and other obligations. Given the multitude of ongoing stressors faced by firefighters, it has become evident that attention must be paid to the mental health of firefighters. However, when assets are scarce and require prioritizing, services to preserve healthy minds are often backgrounded to seemingly more critical choices of gear, equipment, and apparatus. Hence volunteer firefighters are often disadvantaged when it comes to information, education, and initiatives for mental health. The purpose of this research was to create, present, and evaluate the effectiveness of a resilience education programme for volunteer firefighters.