Walk the Talk - First Responder Peer Support

Authors: Brad McKay and Sylvio (Syd) A. Gravel


Research shows that eighty percent of suicides have a degree of pre-communication before the act is completed. Therefore, organizations have a responsibility to protect their employees from committing harmful or life-threatening acts against themselves, or possibly others, as a consequence of experiencing ongoing trauma resulting from their jobs. Organizations need the tools to provide assistance and support and not just tools to react to members’ needs. Additional tools and resources are available to create a proactive system of early intervention that provides support and resources to employees before they become lost in a hole of despair.

Walk the Talk is an invitation for the reader to discover the rationale for, and the development and implementation of, an effective peer support program. Such a program can be instrumental in mitigating the negative consequences of traumatic events within an organization, particularly first responder services or agencies.

As a result of their own boots-on-the-ground experience of an operational stress injury, retired Staff Sergeants Brad McKay and Syd Gravel have each walked the road of recovery. Through their own learning and post-traumatic growth, their personal lives and careers were enhanced as they used their own experiences, insights and training to introduce informal and formal peer support programs to their own police services in order to assist their injured colleagues.

We know that humans are social beings who need to connect and share with others. We are also aware that life situations that create threats, pain and distress can lead to suffering–often suffering in silence. Isolation, loneliness and a lack of support increase the negative consequences of traumatic events in our lives and directly impact our brain’s health. In addition, there is a relationship between exposure to trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and chronic medical conditions. All of these can create an emotional, physical and financial cost to an organization.

The models you will learn about include: 1) Protecting Society’s Protectors through Peer Support; 2) Assessing an Organization’s Awareness about Workplace Wellness; 3) Getting Management Onside; 4) Organizational Pre-Hiring Preparedness; 5) Organizational Support for Families; 6) Middle Management Leadership; 7) Developing a Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) Team; 8) Developing Peer Support Teams; 9) Staffing CISM and Peer Support Teams; 10) Organizational Training for CISM; 11) How a CISM and Peer Support System Can Work and 12) Walking the Talk.

This book describes how to provide such a system through processes that are relatively easy to set up and relatively inexpensive to implement. Step by step, and chapter by chapter, the organization will learn about the information needed and the tools and resources available to build a competent and trusted peer support system.

The two authors have a combined total of fifty-five years of peer support experience. They understand the challenges and have overcome the hurdles in setting up peer support systems for their organizations and for other similar services. They share their knowledge in this book, based on having walked the talk, in order to help others get started in implementing a peer support system.

The practices outlined in this book are evidence-based, with the training of peers using the seventeen evidenced-based modules that follow the guidelines set by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, and which are endorsed and supported by the Mood Disorders Society of Canada.

Print length

188 pages




1799455 Ont. Inc.

Publication date

Dec. 24, 2016


A short description of the various therapist certifications in Ontario.

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Clinical Psychologists are required to complete a related Masters and Ph.D. program to practice in the province of Ontario that must be research-based and subsequently have a thesis component. They are governed by the College of Psychologists of Ontario (CPO).

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Registered Psychotherapists (RPs) are registered by the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO) and, like Registered Social Workers and Clinical Psychologists, are permitted to perform the controlled act of psychotherapy.

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