Helping the Helpers - Not all Injuries are Visible

The 10th Annual Awareness & Education Day for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

October 26, 2024 • Antigonish, Nova Scotia

8th Annual
‘Helping the Helpers’

Awareness and Education Day For Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder


We have confirmed Saturday, October 29, 2022 as the date for the 8th Helping the Helpers Awareness and Education Day!

The event will once again take place at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. We are looking forward to offering another exceptional day of sharing, education and support for First Responders and their families and coworkers who are dealing with PTSD or other psychological workplace injuries. Please mark your calendars and check back to the website regularly for updates and registration information.

Suggestions for speakers are most welcome and may be sent by email to


‘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.



Registration fee is $25/person.

You may register by clicking at the link below or by calling our event registrar at 902-422-1886 or 877-731-1333.

Once the registrations are complete, you may make a single payment for by cheque or credit card for the people participating from your organization. Details for payment will appear on the invoice you will receive when you complete your registration.

If you have questions or require assistance, you may email us at

We look forward to seeing you on Saturday, October 29th, 2022 in Antigonish!

Speaker Line Up 2022 Conference

Preliminary Agenda

7:30 – 8:30 AM Registration
8:30 – 8:45 AM Welcome Remarks – Masters of Ceremonies
Jason Maclean
8:45 – 9:00 AM

Karen McMahon. BBA, MBA

Executive Director, Strategic Planning & Accountability (Safety Branch/Labour, Skills & Immigration)

9:00 – 9:15 AM Worker’s Compensation Board of Nova Scotia – Shelley Rowan VP, People and Strategy
9:15 – 9:45 AM RCMP Member – Corporal Brad Savage
9:45 – 10:15 AM Refreshment Break
Gift Winner Announcement/ Visit Exhibitor Booths
10:15 – 10:45 AM Registered Nurse – Randy Crouse
10:45 – 11:15 AM Medical Director – Dr. Howard Conter
11:15 AM – 12:00 PM Psychologist – Kathy Fox
12:00 – 1:00 PM Lunch (On Your Own)
Gift Winner Announcement/ Visit Exhibitor Booths
1:15 – 2:00 PM

Paramedic – John Garth MacDonald ACP

Journey of Recovery – Michelle MacDonald

2:00 – 2:15 PM Empowering Video Message from Daughter of First Responder – Maddie MacDonald
2:15 – 3:00 PM Employer Supporting and Valuing an Employee with PTSD – Phyl Mason
3:00 – 3:15 PM Refreshment Break
Gift Winner Announcement/ Visit Exhibitor Booths
3:15 – 3:45 PM Fire Fighter – Ward Redwood
3:45 – 4:15 PM Correctional Office – Jen Aarnamo
4:20 – 4:50 PM Spouses Panel Discussion – Moderated by Jason MacLean
Travis & Jen Dow
John & Daniela Tsentouros
4:50 – 5:00PM Closing Remarks and Gift Winner Announcement – Helping the Helpers Committee

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

Guest Speakers & Resources

at the 8th Annual Helping the Helpers Awareness and Education Day

Jason MacLean

Jason MacLean, Secretary Treasurer of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE)

Jason MacLean was elected for terms as President of the Nova Scotia Government & General Employees Union, Nova Scotia’s largest public sector union, in May 2019. In the spring of 2022, he advanced to the position of Secretary Treasurer of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).

Read More

Born and raised in the community of Whitney Pier, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Jason grew up understanding the importance of diversity, fairness and equality. His mother is a community leader, a former school board representative and a retired Early Childhood Educator, and his father is a retired firefighter. In 1995, Jason began his career in the public service as a Corrections Officer first at the Cumberland Correctional Facility in Amherst and then at the Cape Breton Correctional Facility in Sydney. Jason became a leader in his Union Local and soon was elected to the NSGEU Board of Directors, Provincial Executive, and became President in 2016, a position he held until earlier this year. In his new role as Secretary Treasurer of the National Union of Public and General Employees, he strives to be a leader focused on solving problems and creating more fair, equitable, and inclusive workplaces in Canada. Jason was selected to attend the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference Program in 2015 and is a graduate of the distinguished Harvard Trade Union program. When he is not advocating on behalf of members and the working people in Canada, Jason enjoys spending quality time with his family: he is married and the father of three children: Tasia, Tyler, and Jalen.

Karen McMahon

Karen McMahon

Karen McMahon is the Executive Director of Strategic Planning and Accountability division in the Safety Branch. She and her team support both Occupational Health and Safety and Technical Safety on policy, strategic, planning, systems and information matters.

Read More

Her team worked on the development of the Post Traumatic stress disorder legislation and the new bill to expand access to workplace injury insurance and cancer presumption to volunteer firefighters in the Worker’s Compensation Act. Karen has worked in the Safety Branch since 2014. Prior to that, she worked in the non profit sector as Director of Policy and in the Private Sector for a large Petroleum Company. Karen has a Masters in Business Administration from Henley Management College in the UK and a Bachelor of Business Administration from University of New Brunswick. Her family lives in Halifax and she keeps busy with her two young sons and teaching fitness classes.

Shelly Rowan, Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia Representative

Shelley Rowan

VP, People and Strategy, Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia Representative

Since joining WCB Nova Scotia in 1998, Shelley Rowan has held a number of executive roles, providing guidance and oversight to help the people, strategies, and services of the organization flourish. She is currently Vice President, People and Strategy, where her responsibilities include leading a wide range of the WCB’s corporate functions, including our new innovation framework.

Read More

Most recently, as VP, Prevention and Service Delivery, the teams in Shelley’s portfolio have supported lasting change in safety cultures in fishing, in health care, and in other industries. Having redefined the way we work with key partners in prevention under the Workpalce Safety Strategy, Shelley has more recently focused a great deal of effort in improving mental health outcomes, and supporting Nova Scotia’s first responder community.

Previous to the WCB, Shelley’s career spanned a number of roles in the federal and provincial public sector, from federal crown corporations to regional health authorities.

She is a past chair Board member with Threads of Life, a national organization dedicated to providing support for families impacted by workplace tragedy, and has served on the Council of Governors of the Canadian Centre of Occupational Health and Safety, and more locally, on the Board of Governors for Mount Saint Vincent University.

Brad Savage

Brad Savage

Cpl. Brad Savage is a husband and father of three. He has been a member of the RCMP for 13 years and has worked all over the Country.

Brad got his start in Cole Harbour NS, where he worked for five years before transferring to the Northwest Territories, where he did two, two year posts in Fort Good Hope and Fort Providence.

Read More

He then transferred back to Nova Scotia to be closer to family and was stationed in Kingston, NS. Kingston is where all the accumulative OSI’s came to a head when on December 11, 2018 during a traffic stop a male pulled on gun on Brad. Brad fired and injured the male causing him to run away in to the woods where he was later taken in to custody by ERT.

Shortly after the incident Brad reached out for help, but everyone he called was not taking on new clients. He internalized everything, thinking “I Must Not Need Help”. After a year and a few more OSI’s Brad was finally able to get help from a psychologist and the Wounded Warriors Program. Brad is now Peer to Peer and helps whoever he can, including being deployed during the H Strong Portapique incident.

In May 2021 Brad took a promotion to BC Highway Patrol in Fort Nelson BC, where he still resides.

In November 2021 Brad flew to California for a program called Save a Warrior. It has been life changing! Because of it Brad meditates daily and has stopped drinking alcohol. The work he has put in to developing himself has left Brad feeling like the father, husband, and Police Officer he has always wanted to be.

Randy Crouse

Randy Crouse

Randy Crouse has been a Registered Nurse since graduating from Dalhousie University in 2007. He began his career at the Colchester Regional Hospital in Truro.

Read More

In 2008, Randy moved to Antigonish, where he currently lives with his wife, Laura, his son, Gehrig, and pets, Avery and Meli, to start work at St. Martha’s Regional Hospital. After five years in the float pool working on the Progressive Care Unit and Emergency Department, Randy took a full-time position in the Intensive Care Unit, where he continues to work today.

Prior to becoming a nurse, Randy graduated with a Bachelor of Kinesiology from Acadia University in 2003 and a Master’s degree in Adapted Physical Activity from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium (2004).

In the community, Randy is passionate about advocating for accessibility and opportunities for individuals to participate in sports and physical activity no matter their experience, abilities or circumstances. He is the current Coordinator for Antigonish Challenger Baseball; Provincial Coordinator for Nova Scotia Challenger Baseball; and National Coordinator for Challenger Baseball Canada. These positions have allowed him to work together with Baseball Canada, Little League Canada, Toronto Blue Jays and Jays Care Foundation to help develop and grow baseball opportunities for children and youth with disabilities across Canada.

John Garth MacDonald, ACP & Michelle MacDonald, RN, MN

John Garth suffered a psychological workplace injury, PTSD in 2010. The PTSD injury was pervasive impacting the entire family.

Read More

During John Garth’s 20 years of service as an Advanced Care Paramedic he attended and was exposed to numerous traumatic calls including MVC’s, drownings, suicides , sudden infant deaths to name a few. He was never provided the strategies to protect his psychological well-being and the expectation within workplace culture was to “suck it up and get over it! This is what he signed up for!”. These cumulative incidents started to take a horrific toll on he and his family. In Dec 2010 , John Garth found himself exposed to one of the most horrific calls expanding his 20 year career involving the death of an infant 6 day old and near death of the Mother. Following this incident he and his family’s journey began. The PTSD injury was pervasive impacting the entire family. John Garth and his wife, Michelle will share pieces of their PTSD journey to ongoing recovery as individuals, spouses and as a family.

Jen & Travise Dow

Travise and Jennifer Dow

Travise and Jennifer are high school sweethearts. They attended St.FX together and were married in May 2000.

Both dedicated to their community, Jennifer became a teacher and Travise began his journey as a first responder in Iqaluit, Nunavut. Travise was a volunteer fire fighter, a corrections officer, youth corrections officer and then joined the RCMP in late 2002.

Read More

Jennifer quickly embraced their RCMP life and began advocating early on for mental health and spousal inclusion.

Together, they have organized Mental Health Awareness events in their community for fellow officers and families, including a debriefing specifically for RCMP spouses after the Moncton shootings in 2014.

Compounding critical incidents experienced during his career, as well as the day-to-day files, subsequently led to Travise’s PTSD diagnosis. Together, Travise and Jennifer have endured over two decades of first responder trauma and vicarious trauma.

On their journey, they have found that open communication, being proactive and committed to their mental health and having hope is critical, but admit the path is often not easy.

Jen Aarnamo

Jen Aarnamo C-IAYT

Jen Aarnamo is a retired Correctional Officer. During her 18 years she served as Tactical Team Lead, a Defensive Tactics Instructor and Ontario Correctional College Instructor.

Read More

After 15 years she started to notice the signs of accumulated post traumatic stress. She began her transition out of Corrections returning to school in 2015, retiring in 2018 and graduating as Yoga Therapist in 2020. Through Self-Awareness, Self-Responsibility and learning the science of Self-Regulation, she has found freedom from the all too familiar effects of a career in Law Enforcement. She currently sees private clients’ online, runs her school’s Mentor Program and serves as a Co-Facilitator with the Centre for Mindfulness in Public Safety’s Mindfulness Based Wellness and Resiliency Program in Ontario Corrections.

“I rediscovered my desire to serve and give back to the world through teaching. I want to share all the tools that I have learned to heal myself from work and life stress. I’ve found a way to give back, especially to my brothers and sisters in the First Responder Community.”

Maddie MacDonald

Madison MacDonald

We are blessed to have Maddie, the daughter of John Garth and Michelle MacDonald as one of our presenters again this year. Maddie was a young child when her Father experienced a psychological workplace injury, PTSD.

Read More

She wanted to capture some of her lived experience as a child of a First Responder through a video she developed along with Jon Brown. This short video is a reflection of her journey of how PTSD impacted her as an individual within our family.

Maddie has been a long-time mental health advocate and speaks openly and effortlessly with anyone who wants to discuss mental health issues. She speaks authentically with the focus on breaking down stigma and ‘normalizing the conversation’.

Kathy Rolfe

Kathy Rolfe

Kathy is thrilled to present at this year’s Helping the Helper’s Day. She is from a rural community just west of Edmonton Alberta called Parkland County.

Read More

Kathy spent six and a half years in the Canadian Forces before joining the Edmonton Police Service where she served in various areas such as gang unit, drug undercover street team, and with the RCMP and Canada Border Services in a joint organized crime area. She retired from the Edmonton Police Service after 20 years of policing in 2019. While with the police service she was a 10-year member of the peer support team, connected with many members and attended numerous Critical Incident Stress Debriefings. Kathy has been in private practice for the past eight years and specializes in trauma and occupational stress injuries. She primarily sees first responders, veterans, and their families. In addition to her clinical work, she has an animal assisted component to her psychology practice where she utilizes her six horses and two dogs as adjuncts to therapy. Kathy is an associate instructor at Simon Fraser University teaching the Organizational Structure and Stigma Reduction course as a component of the First Responder Trauma Prevention and Recovery Certificate. She is also currently working on her doctorate through the University of Southern California. Kathy is a terrible golfer but still tries hard and goes at least once a week. With her spare 5 minutes she also pays attention to her husband of almost 10 years who is a retired Sergeant with the Edmonton Police Service and military veteran.

Phyl Mason

Phyl Mason

Phyl Mason is a FF/ACP celebrating his 34th year in the industry. Phyl started in a coal mine in Northern BC where he was a valuable member of the Rescue Team. He completed his PCP in 2002 and then his ACP in 2005. 

Read More

Phyl spent the majority of his carer on reserves until he moved to Medicine Hat where he was a Flight/Ground ACP.

Phyl has spent the last 12 years working industrial EMS where he had the privilege to meet John Garth. John really opened Phyl’s eyes to PTSD and ever since Phyl has been a supporter of helping those who suffer from PTSD.

This year after noticing anxiety becoming so prevalent, Phyl felt obligated to help those who work for Onyx. Onyx has now launched our employee wellness program that deals specifically with PTSD and other mental illnesses specific to EMS in the Oil and Gas.

Phyl is an advocate for all that is PTSD and feel employers have a role to play in all employee’s mental health.

Ward Redwood

Ward Redwood

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 Ward responded to many different types of trauma calls.

Read More

Working a night shift and on the early morning hours of my 51st birthday he responded to a call that would stick with him and eventually cause PTSD symptoms that would impact Ward’s ability to work. Before this workplace injury took him off work, Ward was a very strong individual who tackled many of life’s hurdles with ease. This hurdle, however, felt like a fight for his life, and Ward fought harder than ever before. With the help of two kinds of therapy, Ward learned all he could about his injury and put a lot of hard work towards healing. Now he feels much more like his old self again and loves to share his story with others.

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

Dr. Howard Conter

Dr. Howard Conter

Dr. Howard Conter was born and raised in Halifax Nova Scotia.

Howard has participated and volunteered in many professional positions including the Regional Medical Coordinator for Air Canada, a Trustee for the QEII Foundation in addition to being the Medical Director for the Halifax Regional Police Department.

Read More

In 1993 Howard, along with his partners, founded MSHJ Research Associates. MSHJ successfully performed third party clinical trials for various international pharmaceutical companies. By 1998, Howard was asked to join the cast of “regulars” appearing on CBC as a national medical columnist

Howard’s medical background allowed him the pleasure of participating in international events including the World Figure Skating Championships, Canadian Winter Games, and the World Junior Hockey Championships in 2002-2003, and the Memorial Cup to name a few.

Howard is involved in The Children’s Wish Foundation and Air Canada’s Dream Take Flight. In recognition of his many efforts outside of the office, Howard received Family SOS’s “Courage To Give Back” award in 2012 for his ongoing commitment to his community.

He has been involved with first responders for over twenty years as a founding member of the Tema Conter Memorial Trust, now the Tema Foundation. Dedicated to improving the mental and psychological health of first responders.

Howard recently celebrated his 40th of year of marriage to his wife Karen (Abramsky). They have two children, Adam and Jenna and five wonderful grandchildren!

John and Daniela Tsentouros

John & Daniela Tsentouros

John and Daniela Tsentouros are very excited to be joining us from Kenora, ON.

John and Daniela’s lives changed forever when John was taken hostage during a shift when he was working as a correctional officer. Four of the longest hours ensued while neither know what the future would bring. Thankfully, through the hard work of the negotiating team, John was released with minimal physical injuries.

Read More

But it would be the invisible injuries that would have the most profound effect and that would end up testing them as individuals and as a couple.

While John recognized that he would need some immediate help facing the challenges that would come with PTSD, Daniela pushed the need to reach out for support for herself in dealing with the trauma, and focused 100% of her attention and care to her husband and 2 children.

As time progressed, Daniela recognized that she too finally needed to truly process the ordeal and the injuries she had been enduring as a result. Starting a blog called ‘The Often Unseen’ was a major step in that direction.

Both John and Daniela dedicate much of their time advocating for first responders and their families. They have spoken openly and candidly about their to healing through podcasts and interviews and can’t wait to share their story with the Helping the Helpers audience.


This year’s event will be held at St. Francis Xavier University Schwartz Auditorium, Schwartz Building and Barrick Auditorium, Mulroney Building.

StFX Mulroney Hall, Barrick Auditorium
2330 Notre Dame Avenue
Antigonish, Nova Scotia
B2G 2W5

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.