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Sep. 23, 2018 | Sunday
Local News
Wings of Change supports community heroes
Adam Burak, 11th Wing fire department crew chief, and other first responders, load a simulated patient onto a UH-1N Huey during an emergency-readiness exercise on the flight line of Joint Base Andrews, Md., Aug. 13, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Wings of Change, a group that offers mental health support to people who work or have worked in trauma-related jobs, is setting up shop in Niagara.

Founded in Barrie by former paramedic Natalie Harris, who left her job due to post-traumatic stress disorder, the organization will bring its peer support meetings to the region starting in April 17.

Harris said the group started as a group for first-responders like herself, but it’s grown so large and now includes so many different people they coined the term “community heroes.”

To kick off the meetings, local Wings of Change facilitator Laura Thomas will hosting a community education event at which Harris will speak about her experiences with PTSD and what led her to publish a book called Save My Life School: A First Responder’s Mental Health Journey and found Wings of Change.

The free event will take place Tuesday (March 27) at the Niagara Falls Public Library on Victoria Ave. and will see community wellness providers from around the region in attendance to let people know of what mental health services are currently available.

Thomas said it’s important for people to know what resources are actually out there when they need help.

“When people get diagnosed with (a mental health disorder), its like getting smacked in the face, especially for those who are professionals and feel they should have seen the signs,” said Thomas.

“Then the wait begins, because all that’s promoted is a very old way of care — see your doctor, get medication and then wait four to six weeks to see a therapist … If we can remove that wait it will give our Community Hero's an opportunity to gain a sense of control over their own life and mental health.”

“Bringing our local wellness providers together gives our community an opportunity to see what we actually do have to offer today.”

The group encourages community heroes to bring their significant others and older children, noting that mental health issues related to job stress can affect an entire family.

Coffee and tea will follow the event and copies of Harris’ book will be available to purchase for $25.

Free parking is available behind the library.

Those interested in attending should email an RSVP to laura@workwithlaura.ca with their name and number of guests. Space is limited. More information on the April meetings will be available at the March 27 event.

What: Wellness education event

Where: Niagara Falls Public Library, 4848 Victoria Ave., Niagara Falls.

Who: Guest speaker Natalie Harris and community wellness providers.

Cost: Free

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