Bill Brown

First Responders Trauma Prevention and Recovery

Throughout a long and distinguished career in public safety, Bill Brown has served with the Edmonton Police Service and the RCMP and provided training across North America to law enforcement agencies at every level. He’s now brought his extensive experience to the Crisis Intervention course and the Final Project course in our First Responders Trauma Prevention and Recovery program.

Why is it so important for first responders to support their mental health?

We are responsible for our own mental health. So often, first responders tax their own capacity just by the nature of their work, without self-recognition. It’s essential for first responders to take a proactive approach in having resources at the ready in any given circumstance.

In what ways have you seen attitudes change towards mental health issues?

In my view, we’re seeing a shift in the way in which agencies are building capacity to care for their employees. Awareness and education focused on mental health is at the forefront of many agencies. There are a number of organizations and groups that are well positioned to effect change. In fact, many agencies are using recently developed provincial and federal legislation as a guide to develop their own policies governing mental health and wellness for their employees.  

Why do first responders need to learn about crisis intervention? How will it help them?

As first responders, we automatically think of crisis intervention as helping others during the course of our day-to-day work. The SFU Crisis Intervention course is focused on developing awareness and tools for the self and others that we work alongside across the broad spectrum of first responders. Developing these skills will add to your personal resilience and contribute to positive mental health and wellness.  

What is the most important thing students take away from your crisis intervention course? 

Students have a better sense of self-awareness and explore the topic of crisis intervention from a different perspective. Students apply a holistic approach to developing tools for their “tool belt”—taking what works for them and leaving the rest.

In what ways do you bring your own experience in law enforcement into the courses you teach? 

I have served approximately 40 years in public safety across several professional disciplines. We all have stories that I like to refer to as the “what.” What I do is allow the students to share their story—their “what”—and develop it through experiential learning with a view to address the “so what” and the “now what.” In doing so, students are able to then produce a tangible product that will serve to advance the agenda for mental health and wellness among first responders.

In the final project course that you lead, what kinds of real-world projects have you seen students work on? 

Students are provided the opportunity to develop a project of their choosing that will be of benefit (personal or professional) and may have a positive impact on their organization from a local, regional or national level. I’ve seen students submit assignments that have been presented to their agencies and other organizations with a view to effect positive change.  

How diverse are the first responders in your courses? 

Those individuals I have instructed in my courses represent a broad spectrum of first responder agencies, including but not limited to police, fire, paramedics, military, communications, and search and rescue. While many are actively engaged in their first responder career, many are just starting out, retired or shifting their focus.

What do you most enjoy about teaching in this program? 

I enjoy the experience of seeing the students come together and create a synergy that is developed through weekly commentary and discussions. These weekly exercises are clearly articulated within each of their final assignments. And I smile because it’s then that I know that they “get it.”

I’m very passionate about contributing to the greater good of the first responder discipline through my involvement as a course developer/instructor with this SFU program.