Sooke, B.C. (October 10, 2023): On World Mental Health Day, the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (RCMSAR) is pleased to announce a partnership with the B.C. Search and Rescue Association (BCSARA) to create a Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) program that aims to train and deliver CISM services to RCMSAR’s marine search and rescue volunteers.

CISM is a system of crisis intervention designed to reduce the negative psychological impact of traumatic events that people have been exposed to. Its purpose is to support one’s return to their daily routine more quickly and with less likelihood of experiencing PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

Operating the largest all-volunteer critical incident support network in North America, BCSARA provides peer support, post-incident debriefing, and resiliency resources to help search and rescue (SAR) volunteers deal with the stresses experienced during SAR operations.“

The Ground Search and Rescue CISM program has been in place since 2007 and over the years has supported thousands of SAR members as requested after tough calls. It is considered a leader in North America’s volunteer CISM peer supports. A critical incident can happen to anyone, so it is very rewarding to see RCMSAR taking this important step to support their members,” says Chris Mushumanski, BCSARA’s President.“

We are most grateful to our colleagues at BCSARA,” says Bill Riggs, RCMSAR’s Chief Executive Officer. “The ability to learn from them, share their resources, participate in their CISM training, and help RCMSAR develop its internal resources will have immeasurable benefit to our members both in the near term and the future.”

Marine search and rescue volunteers are trained to respond to high-risk situations to save others. Not all searches end in rescues as any mission can quickly turn into a recovery of persons who have perished on the water.

“As volunteer first responders, our members are ready to help those in distress. Tough callouts happen, and it is not a matter of if but when we will be exposed to a critical incident. Through the Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) program, our RCMSAR volunteers have access to a network of trained peer support personnel thanks to BCSARA’s initial training,” shares Erin Heeney, RCMSAR’s Instructor & Training Coordinator and fellow volunteer with RCMSAR Stations 12 and 37.

Later this week, Heeney and twelve RCMSAR volunteers will undergo BCSARA’s CISM training to become peer support counsellors. Upon successful completion of their training, these RCMSAR volunteers will apprentice with a BCSARA peer support person to lead interventions themselves within 12 months.

“Peer support members will be ready with tools and techniques to help members manage their stress and process a critical incident”, Heeney continues. “I am extremely grateful that RCMSAR has joined BCSARA to create a more robust and member supported CISM program, and I am proud to have been selected to join this incredible group of volunteers.”

On World Mental Health Day, RCMSAR fully supports the movement of raising awareness for mental health in all capacities and across all industries. The launch of this CISM program aligns with RCMSAR’s belief that taking care of its members includes providing mental health support.


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 About Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue
The Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (RCMSAR) is a volunteer-based charitable organization that operates more than 30 marine rescue stations along the coast of British Columbia and inland waters. With over 900 volunteers, emergency response crews are on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week ready to respond to marine emergencies. RCMSAR volunteers also prevent emergencies by providing the public boating safety information, conduct pleasure craft safety checks, and provide free access to children’s lifejackets at PFD loaner stations located at many docks and marinas in the communities that they serve through the Kids Don’t Float program. RCMSAR’s mission is “Saving lives on the water”.

Established in 1978 originally under the name the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary–Pacific, RCMSAR is called on to respond to marine emergencies by the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in British Columbia through an agreement with the Canadian Coast Guard.

About BC Search and Rescue Association (BCSARA)
BCSARA’s mission is to represent the un-paid professional ground search and rescue community in BC by providing advocacy, support for funding and health and safety, access to information as well as public education and prevention. BCSARA was formed in 2002 and is a registered non-profit society representing 78 search and rescue groups across the province. Ground Search and Rescue (GSAR) in British Columbia is done solely by volunteers. On call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, these unpaid professionals provide their time, gear, dedication, and expertise to the people of BC and the subjects they rescue. 

About World Mental Health Day
World Mental Health Day takes place on October 10 each year. The overall objective of World Mental Health Day is to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and to mobilize efforts in support of mental health. The Day provides an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide. To learn more, visit: 

Media Contact:

John Johnston
Manager, Human Resources
Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue
Media line: 1-778-352-1006

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