Government is providing funding to the Heroes in Mind, Advocacy and Research Consortium (HiMARC) to support mental health for military and first responders.

Premier Jason Kenney and Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Jason Luan held a roundtable discussion this week to raise awareness of first responder mental health for PTSD Awareness Month with representatives from local first responder agencies and the HiMARC organization.

HiMARC is receiving funding to develop web-based resources to build resilience among first responders and expand clinical trials using virtual reality to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among military members and veterans to a sample of other first responders, including law enforcement and health-care providers.

“First responders such as military members, law enforcement and other emergency services members have been on the front lines of our pandemic response. We are pleased to support HiMARC’s important work providing a platform for members of these groups to develop and practise resilience skills.”

Jason Kenney, Premier

HiMARC was established through the Chair of Canadian Military and Veterans Clinical Rehabilitation in Canada at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine to develop and implement innovative solutions to improve operational readiness, resilience and growth, as well as health and well-being of organizations, military members, veterans, public safety personnel, and their families.

“Many Albertans need additional mental health supports during the pandemic, but none more so than our first responders. Our government is proud to support this program that seeks to provide resources and learning opportunities to help first responders and military members be ready to respond to emergencies at a moment’s notice.”

Jason Luan, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions

HiMARC’s 3MDR project uses an immersive virtual reality system, including exposure therapy, psychotherapy, virtual reality imagery and treadmill walking, to treat PTSD, moral injury and other mental health conditions.

“Edmonton Police Service members have played a key role in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic so far. The stress and long hours can take a toll on officers. We are grateful to the Government of Alberta and we are pleased to be a partner organization with HiMARC and support this important work.”

Dale McFee, chief of police, Edmonton Police Service

The Alberta government is providing $362,000 to HiMARC for this important work through the COVID-19 Mental Health and Addiction Action Plan – the largest of its kind in Canada.

“Military members, veterans and other first responders are at higher risk of developing PTSD through their work. HiMARC’s programs will help these heroes in our communities find effective treatment for this serious illness.”

Brad Rutherford, MLA for Leduc-Beaumont, and Military Liaison

The new online platform will include resources and resilience-building activities, as well as a trial of virtual group activities.

“HiMARC aims to enhance resilience, address trauma and mental health challenges when they arise, and facilitate a successful return to work and life transitions. With support from and collaboration with the Government of Alberta and our partners, we will continue to expand our research and services to enable those who serve and have served, their families, organizations and communities to thrive.”

Suzette Brémault-Phillips, director, HiMARC and associate professor, Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Alberta
  • Members include:
    • Alberta Health Services
    • Canadian Armed Forces
    • Covenant Health
    • The Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation
    • Northern Alberta Institute of Technology
    • Royal Canadian Legion
    • Veterans Affairs Canada
    • Edmonton Police Service
    • Edmonton Fire Rescue Service
    • Correctional Services

“The Heroes in Mind, Advocacy and Research Consortium is an important example of how the University of Alberta’s research and education engages multiple sectors and disciplines to benefit the broader community. We are pleased to be working with the Government of Alberta on these two projects to provide continued support to our military, veterans, first responders, and their families.” 

David H. Turpin, president and vice-chancellor, University of Alberta

“AHS Emergency Medical Services (EMS) is grateful to see this funding provided to HiMARC for ongoing research and treatment of mental health issues in military, veterans, first responders and their families,” Dale Weiss, executive director, EMS Operations, Alberta Health Services said.”Paramedics on the frontlines will benefit from the increased resiliency and treatment as they deal with difficult situations every day. HiMARC has been a strong partner in mental health and we look forward to working with them in the future. EMS thanks Premier Jason Kenney, Associate Minister Jason Luan and MLA Brad Rutherford for their work in funding this initiative to make it a reality.”

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