7th Annual Education Day Postponed due to COVID-19

7th Annual
‘Helping the Helpers’

Awareness and Education Day For Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Our 7th Annual Awareness and Education Day for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder will be on October 24th, 2020, at St. Francis Xavier University Schwartz Auditorium. The program will feature presentations from first responders, 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.


The 7th Annual “Helping the Helpers” Awareness and Education Day for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder will be held on Saturday, October 24, 2020. Registration for the event is now open, however, we understand that in the coming weeks, the health and welfare of you and your families must be the primary focus.

Registration fee is $25/person. For your convenience, you may purchase a lunch ticket for Morrison Hall in advance this year, for a cost of $13.80/person. Cost to purchase on site is $14.65.

The deadline for registration is October 12th, 2020. You may cancel up to September 1st, 2020 and receive a full refund… Should a decision be made to cancel the Education Day due to public health concerns, registration fees will be refunded in full.

You may register and purchase your lunch ticket by clicking here, or by calling our event registrar at 902-422-1886 or 877-731-1333. You may email us at helpingthehelpers@agendamanagers.com.

Speaker Line Up 2020 Conference

Starr Cunningham, CEO Mental Heath Foundation of Nova Scotia Welcome Remarks, Master of Ceremonies
Sean Fraser MP for Central Nova Opening Remarks
Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education Representative
Shelley A. Rowan Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia Representative ~ New First Responder Resource
Sgt. Joe Taplin RCMP Member
Dr. Heidi Cramm & Dr. Deborah Norris Research on Spouses of Military Personnel & First Responders: Co- Facilitated
Madison MacDonald Empowering video message from child of First Responder
John Brix Retired Police Officer
Crystal Morais RN Registered Nurse
Mary Beth Flemming OT & Sandra Duke RN-NP Returning to Function Following a Psychological Workplace Injury : Occupational Therapy as Integrated Therapy : Co-Facilitated
John Garth MacDonald ACP & Michelle MacDonald Spouses Panel Discussion ~ Moderated by Starr Cunningham
Cpl. Shannon Fear & Tim Hamilton Spouses Panel Discussion
Cst. Brad Cameron & Sara Jane Cameron Spouses Panel Discussion
Jen Aarnamo Retired Correctional Officer
Ward Redwood Retired Fire Captain
Helping the Helpers Committee Members Closing Remarks

(Subject to Change)

Mental Health and Wellness Exhibitors onsite.

For First Responders, allied Frontline Professionals and their spouses. Program is recommended for family members over 18.

Guest Speakers at the 7th Annual Helping the Helpers Awareness and Education Day

Madison MacDonald

We are blessed to have Maddie MacDonald as one of our presenters. She is currently attending her first year at StFX enrolled in BA with Major in Psychology and is considering Forensic Psychology.

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 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 .

John Brix

We are privileged to have John as one our presenters at this years event. John is an International Keynote Speaker and Leadership and Emotional Intelligence! The human mind is divided into two basic aspects, the conscious and subconscious mind. Understanding how these two aspects to the human psyche work with each other is the key to all areas of your success and Emotional Intelligence. You will be able to communicate messages more efficiently, improve your long term memory recall and increase your success potential.

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Stress Management and Adrenal Fatigue Repair

The participants will be educated on effects of long term stress and how to control their rumination mind. The tools provided will ease the stress levels of the participants, naturally recover from adrenal fatigue and increase their personal health. The tools received will help keep their mind on task, producing a higher level of success and a lower stress in their day to day life.

Personal Excellence

Did you know we can subconsciously sabotage our personal success? This subconscious act is what separates excellence from the average, elite from the mediocre and the professional from the novice. Through tools and philosophies you will learn how to reprogram your subconscious mind to fully experience the high level of success we are all capable of.

Before getting into the oil and gas industry I was a police officer for a major metropolitan city for over 13 years. During that time I gained training and instructor certification from the FBI and various other institutions around North America. Through direct experience and formal training, I created a very innovative and progressive set of instructional philosophies which increases personal success, happiness and accelerated my career.I have now successfully customized these philosophies to the oil and gas, safety, construction Industry, various professional athletic groups and emergency services. Presenting to over 7000 people in 2017 as a keynote speaker across Canada, the United States and South America.

Ward Redwood

We are priviledge to have Ward (Retired Fire Captain) as one of our guest presenters at this years event. Ward started his career as a Full-Time Career Firefighter in October of 1989 for the City of Grande Prairie. In a career spanning 30+ years I responded to many trauma calls but there was one that stuck with me.

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Working a night shift and on the early morning hours of my 51st birthday I responded to a call that would stick with me and eventually cause PTSD symptoms that would take me off work. Before this workplace injury took me off work, I was a very strong individual who tackled many of life’s hurdles with ease. With this hurdle I felt that I was in a fight for my life and I fought harder than I ever had before. After learning all I could about my injury and putting in a lot of hard work, participating in 2 kinds of therapy, I felt way more like my old self again. I know that I have won the battle with PTSD and I love to share my success story!!

Ward has retired from the Grande Prairie Fire Department in November of 2019 at the rank of Fire Captain.


Jen Aarnamo

We are thrilled to have Jen as one our guest presenters at this years event. In 2015, after 15 years as a Correctional Officer and a particularly stressful year at work, Jen Aarnamo decided it was time to start making some lifestyle changes. 

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She recognized in herself the signs and symptoms of PTSD; unreasonable and unexpected “Fight or Flight” triggers outside of work, extreme irritability and anger, insomnia and inability to feel or express emotions. She felt broken.

At the suggestion of a friend she applied to Yoga North International Soma Yoga Institute in Duluth, MN. She is now a Yoga Therapist working with First Responders teaching tools for wellness through Stress Resiliency Training.

She founded Mind Body Whole Wellness; a company geared to teach freedom through Connection & Self Care and retired from Corrections in 2018.

Jason Israel

We are honoured to have Jason as one of our guest presenters at this years event. Retired Sgt Jason Israel was born and raised in Saint John, NB. At the age of 19, he enlisted as an infanteer with our Canadian Armed Forces.

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Jason served his country for 16 years, which included three combat missions to Afghanistan.

Upon his release from the military, Jason competed at the Toronto Invictus Games and, in 2018, won two gold medals in track events at the Warrior Games. Currently, Jason coaches for Soldier On and resides in Burton, NB with his wife, Amanda, and their three children, Jakob, Grace, and Kaleb.

Joe Taplin

We are honoured and grateful to have Joe as one of our guest presenters. Sgt. Joe Taplin joined the RCMP April 30, 1990 and has 30 years’ experience. Sgt. Taplin was diagnosed five years ago with severe cumulative PTSD combined with depression and an anxiety disorder but is believed he has suffered with this since his first posting in northern Alberta. 

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He also has been posted to an isolated Alberta posting and Nova Scotia within his career. He is currently the NCO i/c of Cole Harbour office and Community Policing for Halifax District.

The one thing training forgot to tell us is that some of us are going to Suffer in Silence with nightmares, images planted in my head that haunt us daily. Kids that I tried to help – the senseless sexual assaults against them, their innocence taken away and not being able to do a damn thing to help them, except comfort them with words while thinking about my own three young daughters and worrying about them as well. The trauma of a family of 7 dying in a single car accident and knowing them, the murders, the sudden deaths, the assault causing bodily harms, the motor vehicle accidents, the suicides, the fatal electrocutions, fire victims, plane crashes and I wonder why I started to self-destruct years ago.

Yes, that was Joe Taplin, suffering in silence for more than 25 years until I had a break down and finally had to seek help on my own. For over 25 years I have fooled myself, my family my co-workers by suffering in silence. It took me 25 years to realize that I had a work place injury called PTSD…wow me, the face of the RCMP (media spokesperson) for 7 years. I have been presented with National awards, IODE policemen of the Year, Two Jubilee medals for my community work, a great community person who volunteered a lot in my past, a good police office but suffering inside for years while working with the RCMP with no real help for us or me.

Sgt. Taplin has taken his Suffer in Silence ideal and has been featured on CBC NS, the Rick Howe Show and CTV Your Morning with Ben Mulroney. “I truly believe we have to get rid of the stigma of mental health and not suffer in silence but it takes a culture shift to make this happen”. “We have lost to many brother and sisters to suicide and it has to stop, we need to step up and talk and reach out for help”.

Constable Brad Cameron & Sara Jane Cameron

We are thrilled and honoured to have Constable Brad Cameron and his wife Sara Jane to be part of our first ever Spouses Discussion Panel. They will be sharing the stage with two other couples who will be announced soon. 

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This is an exciting initiative incorporated into our agenda this year based on feedback from previous years. This sharing of lived experiences as couples through their family’s journey through OSI and PTSD injuries will provide valuable information for other First Responders and allied Frontline Professionals and their families.

Marybeth Fleming

We are honoured to have Marybeth as one of our guest presenters at this years event. Marybeth comes to us with over 25 years of direct clinical experience and leadership.

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Marybeth has worked in the public and private sector and more recently Marybeth has worked as a case manager with the WCB, on the Special Adjudication team focusing on those workers with a traumatic injury and / or a concussion. She is now the owner and operator of OT Health Inc.

Marybeth’s career has taken her to many workplaces, clinics, community settings where the goal of treatment was “Returning to Life’s Activities”. While supporting her clients to return to Life ‘s activities like hobbies, church, getting groceries and work for example, Marybeth has assisted first responders to navigate their return to Life’s activities successfully. Her experience with first responders has enabled her to participate as an integral team member along side psychologists and other health professionals supporting in vivo exposure experiences. Successfully supporting clients during their reintegration into productive and functional living, including safe and sustainable work following trauma, was and continues to be the most exceptionally rewarding time of her career. Not only has Marybeth experienced the work of trauma as a professional, she also has first had experienced with immediate family members, friends and colleagues.

Crystal Burns-Morais

We are honoured to have Crystal as one of our guest presenters at this years event. Crystal has been a nurse for the past 20 years, spending 15 of those years in labour and delivery as well as pediatrics at St Martha’s Hospital in Antigonish, NS. During this time she was faced with many traumatic events involving infants, children, teenagers, women and their families.

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Being the dedicated, empathetic, and caring professional that she is, Crystal pushed all of these events to the side feeling that she had dealt with them just fine and always tried to focus on the many happy and special moments that she was part of during her career. In 2013 she started noticing some slight changes in her personality, her mood, and how she handled different situations. This continued over the past number of years, then her sleeping patterns started being interrupted, her memory was declining, her concentration and decision making started being affected. While noticing these changes herself, she kept them from everyone else around her including her family in fear of being judged. She suffered in silence for about 5 years before she was finally able to accept that there was something medically wrong with her.

It wasn’t until a major event in 2018 that Crystal’s life took a major turn and her world came crippling down in front of her. In September of 2018 she was diagnosed with PTSD, major depression and anxiety. After losing hope on life, her family, her friends, and her career, Crystal confided in a coworker and with her guidance she sought out Professional help. With professional help, guidance and resources, Crystal continues to be on her recovery journey all while spreading the message that there truly is hope, take it one day at a time and to never give up. You are not alone!

She is an extraordinary mental health advocate for others especially for frontline workers and nurses in particular. She is always willing to share her story and to lend an ear to anyone in need while she maintains her own healthy boundaries.

Crystal is also one of the facilitators for the Antigonish Wings of Change Peer Support Group. She is very honoured to be part of Helping the Helpers and hopes that she is able to spread the message of hope and strength to others that may be suffering especially those suffering in silence.

Sandra Duke

We are honoured to have Sandra as one of our guest presenters at this years event. Sandra will be sharing her lived experience along with co-facilitating with Mary Beth Fleming OT about how Occupational Therapy can support someone with a psychological injury as an integrated therapy in supporting returning to function.

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Sandra Duke RN-NP

I have had a 40-year career in Nursing, 15 years as an RN working in the high acuity areas of ER and Critical Care. I became a Specialty Nurse Practitioner in 1997 until my retirement in 2018 working as an NP in Cardiology, Internal Medicine (End Stage Congestive Heart Failure Management in the Community) and Geriatric Medicine.

In August 2015, while caring for one of my community-based CHF patients, a horrible adverse event occurred, which I knew I could not, for the first time in my career, self manage. Given that it was a workplace incident, I was referred to Workers Compensation Board and assigned a knowledgeable caseworker, Tracey. Among other health care professionals, she referred me to Marybeth Fleming. I remember thinking “why are they sending me to an OT? My injury is not physical”. Although I did not realize it at the time, this referral was one of my saving graces.

Diagnosed with PTSD, I was able to access the proper care providers who assisted me in getting back to work and back to a functional life. I was determined to get back to work and can say that there surely were bumps along the way. I was able to retire as scheduled in 2018.

The guidance, counselling and direction afforded to me would not have been possible through trying to manage this trauma on my own as I had done so many times before. I, like many of my health care provider colleagues, expected to be able to manage seemingly benign invisible incidents that are deemed “occupational hazards”. Hopefully, my experience which I have shared with my colleagues, will make everyone more mindful to take care of oneself.

John Garth & Michelle MacDonald

We are thrilled and honoured to have Advanced Care Paramedic John Garth John Garth Macdonald and his wife Michelle who are honoured to be sharing the stage with Brad Cameron and Sara Jane and one other couple who will be part of our first ever Spouses Discussion panel.

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We are going to share insights on our journey as spouses living through OSI and PTSD!

Shelley A. Rowan

Vice President, Prevention and Service Delivery. Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia.  Shelley Rowan is a passionate safety champion who has played a pivotal role in developing and delivering comprehensive strategies to strengthen Nova Scotia’s prevention and return to work approaches.

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Shelley joined WCB Nova Scotia in 1998. She currently serves as Vice President, Prevention and Service Delivery, leading WCB’s injury prevention and return to work efforts as well as all aspects of WCB’s service delivery to workers and employers.

Shelley’s career in public service has spanned a number of assignments, from federal crown corporations to regional health authorities.

Shelley is also an active volunteer in her community and serves on the Board of Governors of the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.


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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