Members of the Cayman Islands Fire Services will soon have a colleague they can turn to for psychological help after he receives training. He will also be able to help distressed members of the public.
Firefighters spend many long days and late nights working incident scenes, and serving those who are victims of fire and medical emergencies. In his eight-year career as a fire officer Shimar Harding has heard the stories.
He said: “A distressed father shows up at the scene of a car accident where he learns that his daughter had just died. A first responder arrives at the scene of a car accident only to learn that one of the deceased passengers is a close relative. A baby dies in the arms of a first responder, resulting in sleepless nights for weeks. These are not excerpts from Hollywood. These are real-life events experienced by the fire officers of the Cayman Islands Fire Service.”
Now Mr. Harding will soon receive certification for a new role, which he believes is an integral part of the response team.
“This is my first time travelling outside of the Cayman Islands for international chaplain training,” Mr. Harding said. “Contrary to popular belief, fire officers in the Cayman Islands do work. And when they work, there is a tremendous amount of psychological baggage accumulated from many of the calls they respond to.”
Mr. Harding went to Hudson, Florida last week for a five-day accredited training course offered by the International Fellowship of Chaplains. The course will cover training in critical incident stress, depression, grief and loss, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide issues and worker burnout
“This training is important to me because I have seen at work, with friends and family, and in my personal life the results of when the spiritual and social aspects of life is neglected,” he said.
Mr. Harding has served as a designated chaplain since May 2016. He says with this type of training he wants to promote a holistic approach to the wellbeing of the CIFS fire officers, as well as develop skills which will enable him to better serve the community during incidents where grief and loss of life are involved.
“It is my hope that the chaplain training course will provide me with the skills and knowledge to implement an effective stress management programme within department,” he said. “With an understanding that it is not merely about “me” being the chaplain, I hope to develop a peer support team that will be able to initiate basic counselling in-house which will act as an open door to the mental health experts if needed.”