6th Annual
‘Helping the Helpers’

Awareness and Education Day For Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Our 6th Annual Awareness and Education Day for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was held on October 26th, 2019, at St. Francis Xavier University Schwartz Auditorium. With presentations from frontline professionals, clinicians and family members.


‘Coping and Dealing with PTSD for Frontline Professionals and Families’

This is a great information sharing day from front line professionals sharing their lived experience of living with PTSD and front line professionals providing clinical expertise.


We’re sold out for the 6th Annual ‘Helping the Helpers’ Awareness and Education Day For Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder event!

If you would like to be added to a waitlist for tickets, please contact helpingthehelpersns@gmail.com.

The deadline for refunds is September 1st, 2019 and the deadline for registration is October 12th, 2019. Meal tickets will be available through Morrison Hall, StFX University as previous years

Speaker Line Up 2019 Conference

Silent Auction on site (accepting cash / cheque only)

Lunch: On your own or meal tickets available for purchase at StFX Morrison Hall

Mental Health and Wellness Vendors on site

Starr Cunningham Master of Ceremonies / Mental Health Foundation of NS
Laurie Boucher Message from the Mayor
Sean Fraser MP Central Nova – Opening Remarks
Christine Penney Senior Executive Director, Safety Branch,
Department of Labour and Advanced Education
Starr Cunningham Significance of Challenge Coins
Neil Ridley Retired Police Officer
Dr. Jeff Morley Clinical Psychologist
Starr Cunningham Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia Services & Support
Madison MacDonald Empowering Video Message of Child of First Responder
Liam Brophy Musician
Jessica Patoine EHS Dispatcher
Maureen Brennan Registered Nurse
Dr. Amanda Brazil Vol. Fire Fighter / Director CMHA PEI
Lieutenant-General (Ret’d) The Honorable Roméo A. Dallaire Inspiring Video Message
John Tsorentous Corrections Officer
Brad Cameron RCMP Member
Tim Houston Progressive Conservative Leader of Nova Scotia – Closing Remarks


Click here to view PDF of the Speaker Line Up for the 6th Annual Helping the Helpers Event.

Guest Speakers

Starr Cunningham

We are honoured to have Starr as our Master of Ceremony and as a guest speaker for our 6th Annual Helping the Helpers awareness and education day this year on October 26th at the Schwartz Auditorium St. FX University.

Starr Cunningham is the President & CEO of the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia.

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An acclaimed journalist, best-selling children’s author, and dedicated community volunteer, Starr is a national recipient of a Difference Makers – 150 Canadians Leading for Mental Health Award. She was named the 2019 Women of Excellence Philanthropy Award Winner. She is the 2017 Halifax Business Awards Business Person of the Year Silver Recipient and the Northwood Foundation 2017 Live More Advocacy Award Winner.

Starr serves on the Atlantic Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund Advisory Committee and the NS/PEI St. John Ambulance Board.

Starr will be invested into the Order of St. John in 2019 at Government House.

Sean Fraser

We are pleased once again to have Sean give opening remarks at our 6th Annual Helping the Helpers education and awareness day this year on October 26th, 2019 in Antigonish Nova Scotia at St FX University Schwartz Auditorium.

Sean Fraser is a devoted father and husband and has the pleasure to serve as the Liberal Member of Parliament for Central Nova since 2015. Sean holds a law degree from Dalhousie University, a Masters degree in Public International Law from the Netherlands’ Leiden University, and a Bachelor of Science from St. Francis Xavier University.

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Sean has been a champion for mental health with a particular focus on the Operational Stress Injuries and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder of veterans and first responders. He is a strong supporter of community-driven initiatives to support vulnerable people who are at increased risk of developing mental illness, such as seniors, those with housing insecurity, or adults living with intellectual disabilities. Sean had advocated for the government to establish a policy framework to address PTSI , and was proud when the government introduced its strategy named, ” Supporting Canada’s Public Safety Personnel: An Action Plan on Post-Traumatic Injuries”. This national action plan will help medical service providers better understand the mental health challenges of our veterans and first responders and will help put the supports in place that will allow them to be well.

Sean speaks annually at the Helping the Helpers event in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. This event seeks to shed light on mental health concerns of our First Responders. Sean has been working with his federal and provincial counterparts to secure an investments in a mental health clinic for veterans in Nova Scotia.

Sean worked tirelessly to make a historic agreement with the Province of Nova Scotia possible that will see $130 Million transferred specifically for mental health initiatives. This money will substantially improve mental health services and supports in Nova Scotia. This marks the first time that federal funds have been earmarked specifically for spending on mental health services in the province’s health care system.

He was honoured to receive the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health’s 2019 Champion award and to be named a Champion of mental health in recognition of these efforts.

Neal Ridley

We are thrilled and honoured to have Neal as one of our guest speakers at our 6th Annual Helping the Helpers awareness and education day to be held at the Schwartz Auditorium St FX University on October 26, 2019.

Neal Ridley was on duty as a Niagara Regional Police constable on Oct. 10, 2015 when a man who he was called to investigate pulled out a 45-calibre handgun and started firing.

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Neal was shot point blank, with the bullet striking and exploding his shoulder, then traveling into his neck and out his chin. Miraculously, the bullet missed his carotid artery by two millimetres, and after spending one night in the hospital he was released.

After the shooting, Neal suffered from significant post traumatic stress disorder, made worse by the treatment he received from his own police department. Realizing a return to the job he loved wasn’t an option, Neal decided to return to school, studying psychology at Brock University.

Shockingly, the man who shot Neal was found not fit to stand trial and is living in his parents’ care not far from Neal’s hometown. Choosing to forgive the assailant rather than having him continuously affect his life, Neal met the man who attempted to kill him in January of this year.

Neal Ridley is now a motivational speaker and full-time university student living in Ontario’s Niagara region with his wife and two children. He’s also an endurance athlete who ran in the 2018 Boston Marathon and has completed ultramarathons and an Ironman

Jessica Patoine

We feel privileged to have Jessica as one of our guest speakers this year at our 6th annual Helping the Helpers awareness and education day to be held at the Schwartz Auditorium St. FX University this October 26th, 2019.

Jessica Patoine has been a Paramedic and an Emergency Medical Dispatcher with Emergency Health Services of Nova Scotia for over 13 years.

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She has worked on many mental health initiatives with CBC radio and the Mental Health Comission of Canada. Jessica will share her personal struggle with PTSD and depression in order to raise awareness and help others.

Jeff Morley

We are thrilled to have Dr. Jeff Morley as of our guest presenters this year at our 6th Annual Helping the Helpers education and awareness day this year on October 26th, 2019 in Antigonish Nova Scotia at St FX University Schwartz Auditorium.

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Dr. Jeff Morley is a Registered Psychologist and Board Certified Expert in Traumatic Stress.  Jeff is also a retired Staff Sergeant, having served 23 years in the RCMP. Jeff works with extensively with first responders in his practice providing counselling, assessments, and conducting CISDs.

Jeff provides training to first responders across Canada on CISM, Peer Support, and Resilience.

Maureen Brennan

We are thrilled and honoured to have Maureen as one of our guest presenters this year at the 6th annual Helping the Helpers awareness and education day this October 26th at the Schwartz Auditorium St. FX University

Registered Nurse (RN) Maureen Brennan began working in the ICU in 2010. Brennan helped many patients and their families and thrived in her role as a critical care RN. But the environment in the ICU was relentless. Over the next six years, she witnessed many horrific and distressing situations.

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Over the next six years, she witnessed many horrific and distressing situations. Her feelings of anxiety and stress became increasingly difficult to manage.One particularly devastating patient assignment was the breaking point for her. After working a night shift on August 4, 2016, Brennan walked out of the hospital and has not been able to return. She was devastated. “I was broken and had nothing left to give,” said Brennan.

She was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and ended up on workers’ compensation.Compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, burnout, as well as PTSD are considered psychological stress injuries.The incidence of these injuries are on the rise among all health care providers, including RNs. Studies have shown compassion fatigue a etcs 16-39% of RNs, particularly those working in emergency, critical care, oncology, and pediatrics.

Amanda Brazil

We are thrilled to have Amanda as one of our guest presenters this year at our 6th annual Helping the Helpers awareness and education day this October 26th at the Schwartz Auditorium St. FX University.

Amanda Brazil has been with the Canadian Mental Health Association-PEI Division as Director of Programs and Policy since October of 2013. She obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and a Master of Arts degree in Adult Education from Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax and recently completed her PhD in Educational Studies at UPEI where she studied the informal learning of critical incidents in the volunteer fire service.

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Amanda has extensive experience in the fields of corrections, addictions, and mental health. Her research has been published in the American Journal of Public Health, Women & Criminal Justice, Offender Reintegration, and the Journal of Maltreatment, Aggression, and Trauma. Amanda has been a volunteer firefighter with Cross Roads Fire Department in Stratford for over 7 years, a member of the PEI Learning Partners Advisory Council, and a member of the PEI Critical Incident Stress Management Steering Committee.

She is also an associate researcher with Firewell, a national team of firefighters (full-time, part-time, volunteer), researchers and people interested in firefighter health who are working together to improve firefighters’ health and safety through research. Firewell’s goal is to develop and share tools that can be helpful in supporting healthy work participation specifically for firefighters. Amanda has been working to reduce mental health stigma in the fire service through CISD, presentations and programming.

In 2017 she brought the Vancouver based program, Resilient Minds: Building the Psychological of Firefighters to PEI where it has now been delivered in 7 Island fire departments and at the provincial fire school.

John Tsentouros

We are thrilled and honoured to have John as one of our presenters this year at our 6th annual Helping the Helpers awareness and education day to be held at the Schwartz Auditorium St. FX University October 26, 2019.

John Tsentouros is a from Kenora, Ontario & has been working as a Correctional Officer at the Kenora Jail since 2014.

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On Sept 14th 2018, John was on regular duty when he was attacked by several inmates and taken hostage. While being held hostage, John was threatened, beaten, tortured, & forced to beg for his life. Over the course of several hours, there was a tense stand off between the inmates involved & the team of tactical responders that were deployed to Kenora from around the region.

Miraculously, through the incredible work of a highly trained negotiator, John’s life was saved, and he was released by his tormentors. John’s incident made national news headlines & he has continued to receive an overwhelming amount of love & support from Correctional Officers not only in Ontario, but across Canada.

John has been aggressive on his road to recovery, but the long term effects of his ordeal have yet to be determined. Along with the psychological trauma he experienced, he regularly deals with lingering nightmares, triggers, flashbacks, panic attacks, & other PSTD symptoms.

While is future with Corrections is still uncertain, John is using his healing journey as an opportunity to share his story & help others who are suffering in silence.

Brad Cameron

We are truly honored to have Brad as one of our presenters at our 6th annual Helping the Helpers awareness and education day at the Schwartz Auditorium St. FX University this October 26, 2019.

Brad Cameron is a Mountie with 3 years service, currently serving in the First Nations community of Eskasoni in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Brad is a husband and a father of 4 children.

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On July 3, 2017 Brad was working an overtime shift in Eskasoni when he was dispatched to a call of an accidental hanging of a 2 year old child. Brad was first on scene with Emergency Health Services and assisted in life saving efforts from Eskasoni, all the way to hospital in Sydney where she was pronounced dead.

On July 5, 2017 Brad was sent to Dartmouth by his Sgt to attend the autopsy with MCU. Following the autopsy he was asked to stop at HQ and meet with a force Psychologist and his PTSD struggle truly took flight.

Brad has struggled with flashbacks, very violent and traumatic recurring nightmares where his own children are in crisis and he is unable to save them. All of which he will expose during his presentation.

Brad looks forward to sharing his lived experience and his journey to recovery.

Dean Perry

We are honoured and deeply grateful to have Dean join us again this year and for being part of our team.

Dean provides support for people who are attending our education and awareness day. Thank you Dean!

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Dean Perry, R.Psych. is a Clinical Psychologist in Antigonish. He is a staff psychologist at St. Martha’s Hospital, Nova Scotia Health Authority and has a private practice primarily devoted to front line professionals including paramedics, law enforcement, military and medical. He has served as a Canadian representative to the American Psychological Association’s Disaster Response Network and Public Education Campaigns. He is an honorary Fellow of the Association of Psychologists of Nova Scotia and he has been recently recognized by the American Psychological Association for his contributions to the field of Psychology.

Tim Houston

We are pleased to have Tim give closing remarks at our 6th Annual Helping the Helpers education and awareness day this year on October 26th, 2019 in Antigonish Nova Scotia at St FX University Schwartz Auditorium.

Tim Huston,Leader of Nova Scotia’s Progressive Conservative Party.

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Tim grew up in a military family. Born in Halifax, Tim’s family moved around as a child before moving back to Fairview in Halifax where he grew up. He graduated from Saint Mary’s University and began his career as a chartered accountant in Bedford.

After Tim and his wife Carol were married, they moved to Bermuda for several years where they had their children, Paget and Zachary. They both realized they wanted to raise their kids back home, so they moved to Pictou County where they continue to reside today.

Dr. Patricia Gerrior

We are honoured and deeply grateful to have Patricia join us again this year and being part of our team. Patricia provides support for people who are attending our education and awareness day!

Patricia is a Clinical Psychologist, parent and grandparent who has worked extensively with children, youth, young adults and their families within the Antigonish, Pictou and Port Hawkesbury communities.

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She provides interventions, skill development, and counseling around childhood stress, stressful life events, anxiety, depression, trauma and challenging behaviours. She has been with the NSHA’s Child/Youth team for over 30 years and continues to provide diagnostic assessments in Pictou County. She is currently lead faculty with the Behaviour Interventions Advanced Diploma (BIAD) program at NSCC where she teaches positive, supportive interventions for individuals with challenging behaviours across the lifespan including those behaviours arising from trauma, anxiety and stress.

She is delighted at being invited back to the team providing support to first responders and their families at the 6th Annual Helping the Helpers Awareness and Education Day.

Christine Penney

We are honoured to have Christine from the Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education as one of our guest presenters at our 6th Annual Helping the Helpers education and awareness day.

Christine started her career with the public service in 1993 and has held several operational and leadership roles during her 25 years with the Nova Scotia Public Service.

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In her current role as the Senior Executive Director for the Safety Branch, Christine is responsible for providing strategic direction on all safety matters for the government of Nova Scotia related to both Technical and Occupational Health and Safety.
Christine is a seasoned public service leader, with significant experience leading, innovating and transforming government regulatory programs. The focus of her time and work with government has largely been spent in the compliance regime in both the environmental and safety sectors trying the offer a more balanced approach to stakeholders.

Christine also has significant experience in shaping workplace climates, leading and developing teams for the purpose of solving problems to advance complex business solutions and building relationships with other leaders and partners at all levels.

Christine was on the board of directors for Nova Scotia’s Resources Recovery Fund Board and was a Project Co-Sponsor for Nova Scotia’s Workplace Safety Strategy (2013-2018). Christine was also the winner of several awards for her leadership excellence including The Inspiration Award from the Atlantic Conference on Public Administration, The Malcolm Sparrow Award for Excellence in Regulatory Practice, the Minister’s Award of Excellence for Innovative Program Development and the Friends of Industry Award for Long-time Stewardship to Waste Water Nova Scotia.

Madison MacDonald

Madison MacDonald is the daughter of John Garth and Michelle MacDonald and sister to Luke MacDonald . She was young when her father, John Garth suffered his psychological injury of PTSD. For a long time she has wanted to share her lived experience and communicate her truth of how the PTSD injury impacted her and also how it has empowered her.

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She is currently attending her first year at StFX enrolled in BA with Major in Psychology and is considering Forensic Psychology. She has long been a mental health advocate and speaks openly and effortlessly with anyone that wants to discuss mental health issues with the focus of breaking stigma and ‘normalizing the conversations’.

We are extremely honored and feel privileged to introduce her and her short video she did along with Jon Brown with the hope and intention to share a snippet of what life was like for her as a child of a First Responder injured with PTSD .

Mayor Laurie Boucher

Laurie Boucher is currently serving her first term as Mayor of the Town of Antigonish. Prior to becoming Mayor, Laurie served one term as a Town Councillor. Laurie grew up in New Waterford, Nova Scotia and after finishing high school she made the trip across the Canso Causeway to attend St. Francis Xavier University.

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Laurie, a proud member of the Xavierian family and student athlete, graduated in 1988 with a BSc in Human Kinetics. Following her graduation, she returned to Cape Breton to teach PDR and Physical Education in Wagmatcook First Nation. It wasn’t long until she returned to Antigonish where she stayed for the last 31 years to live, work and raise her wonderful family.

Laurie’s career took her to StFX where she was the Coordinator for Aquatics and Recreation for 10 years before her passion for the community took her to public service. A familiar and friendly face to many, Laurie loves the vibrant community of Antigonish and the people that make the community so unique and welcoming. Laurie feels honoured and humbled to be able to serve the people of Antigonish, as we all work together to help our community grow and flourish.


Liam Brophy

We are honoured to have Liam Brophy performing a song he wrote ” The Road Not Travelled ” this year at the 6th Annual Helping the Helpers education and awareness day on October 26th, 2018 at the Schwartz Auditorium St. FX University.

Liam Brophy is a singer/songwriter from Monastery, NS. When working as a paramedic came to an end after nearly a decade, that’s when his music career began.

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His first and only album “Better Man Blues” and it’s success has allowed him to travel across both Canada and the US for audiences of all ages. His “soulful voice” and “solid guitar skills” are memories that everyone takes away from his performances.

“The Road Not Travelled” – A song about extreme heartache felt by many. This song is about little bits of what was going on in my mind at different times after the events that changed my life on December 27th, while at the same time being a thank you to the loved ones that stuck by our side during the turmoil that would follow. I still to this day, have never gone back to that road or worn those boots.


This year’s event will be held at St. Francis Xavier University Schwartz Auditorium.

StFX Schwartz Auditorium
3090 Martha Drive
Antigonish, Nova Scotia
B2G 2W5


Below are photos from the 6th Annual Helping the Helpers that was held on October 26th, 2019 at St. FX University Schwartz Auditorium.

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