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Manitoba First Responders to Get Mental Health Counselling

April 22, 2024 3:36 PM | The Canadian Press

By The Canadian Press

Manitoba Legislative Building

The legislative assembly during the first session of the 43rd Manitoba legislature throne speech at the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Vincent Elkaim)

WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is funding mental health support for first responders, following the recent death of a Winnipeg firefighter.

The province is committing to pay for three counsellors who are to work with law enforcement, paramedics and firefighters.

David Pankratz, a New Democrat legislature member and former firefighter, says the duties carried out by first responders can take a toll on their mental health over time.

He says the government wants to reduce the stigma around post-traumatic stress and remove barriers for people seeking support.

Pankratz pointed to the death of Preston Heinbigner, who died earlier this month at the age of 40.

Friends and family have said Heinbigner died by suicide and had struggled with the trauma he had seen while responding to calls on the job.

“I know first-hand how tough being a firefighter and paramedic can be on your mental health,” Pankratz said in a press release.

Heinbigner’s family and more than 100 first responders attended the legislature Monday and met with Premier Wab Kinew.

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