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Durham Hero: OFS Chief Clark is a Mental Health Champ

The City of Oshawa congratulated Oshawa Fire Services Chief Derrick Clark on being nationally recognized as a Champion of Mental Health by the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT).

Chief Clark was one of 20 winners and Canada’s only Fire Chief to recently receive the inaugural CIPSRT Champions of Mental Health Award. He was selected from more than 200 nominees across Canada for the award which recognizes public safety personnel who are passionate and committed leaders supporting mental health and well-being in their organizations.

A 35-year veteran of Oshawa Fire Services, Chief Clark’s tremendous work ethic, and commitment and leadership skills enabled him to rise through the ranks to be appointed Fire Chief in 2017. As a firefighter, Chief Clark experienced trauma firsthand and credits those experiences with helping him understand the scope of mental health issues faced by his fellow first responders, said a city statement.

His strong belief in peer support and creating safe spaces for people to talk about their mental health has led to partnerships with local organizations such as the Durham Region Critical Incident Stress Support Team and Wounded Warriors, expanding access to mental health services such as one-on-one peer support, defuses and debriefs, workshops, retreats and counselling for Oshawa Fire Services staff.

Chief Clark knows that for improvements to be made in the ability to access mental health supports, leaders must play a central role in establishing programs and supports for their employees.

To be considered a CIPSRT Champion of Mental Health, nominees were evaluated based on their impact on mental health in their organization and community; willingness to speak about their mental health journey; creation of innovative mental health resources and initiatives; and commitment to decreasing mental health stigma.

CIPSRT serves as a knowledge exchange hub to help current public safety personnel, their leaders and their families to maintain and improve their mental health and well-being.

“I’m proud to receive this award on behalf of all our staff. Our Senior Leadership Team and support staff are ‘Champions of Mental Health’. Our focus at Oshawa Fire Services is to promote openness and make sure staff know they don’t have to struggle in silence, look after their mental health and wellness,” says Oshawa Fire Services Chief Derrick Clark.

“We are extremely proud to celebrate this significant achievement with Chief Clark,” says Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter. “Being the first Fire Chief in Canada to receive this award is a great honour that recognizes his commitment to the mental health of his fellow first responders and ending the stigma associated with occupational stress injuries. Derrick is a true mental health champion in every sense of the word and we congratulate him and thank him for his incredible service to our city.”

“Chief Clark is a very worthy recipient of this award. I am delighted he has been acknowledged in this manner,” says Councillor Rick Kerr, Chair of Community Services Committee.

“I am pleased to congratulate Chief Clark on receiving this national award that recognizes him as a strong advocate for the mental health of our City’s firefighters,” says Councillor Derek Giberson, Vice-Chair of Community Services Committee. “We thank Derrick for his commitment to Oshawa Fire Services and for his service to our community.”

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