A Cayman Islands Fire Service officer is heading off island to receive further training as a chaplain in an effort to support his fellow fire officers.
Fire Officer Shimar Harding said there are plenty of instances in which local firefighters need counseling.
“A first responder arrives at the scene of a car accident only to learn that one of the deceased passengers is a close relative. A baby dies in the arms of a first responder, resulting in sleepless nights for weeks,” Harding said. “These are not excerpts from Hollywood. These are real-life events experienced by the fire officers of the Cayman Islands Fire Service.
“Contrary to popular belief, fire officers in the Cayman Islands do work. And when they work, there is a tremendous amount of psychological baggage accumulated from many of the calls they respond to.”
Mr. Harding will travel to Florida for a five-day accredited training course offered by the International Fellowship of Chaplains. The course will cover training in critical incident stress, depression, grief and loss, post-traumatic stress disorder and worker burnout.
“This training is important to me because I have seen at work, with friends and family, and in my personal life the results of when the spiritual and social aspects of life is neglected,” he said.
Mr. Harding has served as a designated chaplain since May 2016. He says, with this type of training, he wants to promote a holistic approach to the well-being of the CIFS fire officers, as well as develop skills which will enable him to better serve the community during incidents where grief and loss of life are involved.
“I hope to develop a peer support team that will be able to initiate basic counselling in-house which will act as an open door to the mental health experts if needed,” he said.