Care-givers and all of those who work in the helping professions are the focus of an upcoming presentation in Vankleek Hill on April 26 from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Archie Hardy Hall.

Hosted by Hillcrest Funeral Home and The Review, “Building Resilience” is aimed at those who may experience frequent job-related stress due to care-giving or their jobs. This includes police, firefighters, paramedics, teachers, nurses, doctors, social workers, journalists and of course, care-givers who may be caring for a friend or family member.

“This is something we have wanted to offer for some time now,” says Mark Henderson, owner of Hillcrest Funeral Home.

“Perhaps we are among those who are at risk of stress because of the work we do, but we also know that we meet many people who are giving a lot in terms of the kind of work that they do, and sometimes, people ignore this and it can be damaging to one’s health,” Henderson said.

When she heard about the presentation being planned, Review publisher Louise Sproule decided to join forces with Hillcrest Funeral Home.

“I was sort of surprised when the Hendersons said that journalists were on the list of helping professions, but maybe I was not all that surprised. We are often writing about tragedies, people with problems, or listening to people’s struggles with health or other issues. I can feel it sometimes in myself. Even though something is not happening to me, I feel immersed in some stories. Sometimes, it’s hard to take a step back,” Sproule said.

“I think we can all use strategies to cope because sometimes, people push themselves until they have nothing left to give,” said Lisa Henderson, who operates Hillcrest Funeral home with her husband, Mark.

“We do want to be of service to people and we felt this presentation would be something special to offer to our entire community and beyond,” said Lisa, who says that the free presentation is open to everyone.

“Building Resilience” will be offered by Melanie Willard, who is a speaker and local author. She is no stranger to adversity and has overcome many life threatening battles such as cancer, domestic violence, addictions, loss, and suicide.

Melanie served on the front lines of crisis and disaster situations for over a decade.  She pioneered and managed a network of chaplains – the “Billy Graham Rapid Response Team” (RRT) who deployed to assist victims of 25+ crisis and disasters across North America including Hurricane Katrina 2005, Vancouver Olympics 2010, and the Moncton RCMP Shooting 2014. She trained, recruited and developed these responders all across Canada.

“Over the years, I experienced the grave consequences of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), compassion fatigue, and burnout first hand.  Because of it, I experienced the breakdown of my marriage, the loss of my husband and I self-medicated through alcohol and drugs just to get by.  It was a very dark and lonely place.  For many, admitting there is a struggle raises too many risks, and so they suffer alone and in silence.  In 2016 I wrote my story, “Dare to be RAW” in an effort to help break the silence and stigma attached to PTSD and mental illness.  There is hope and we can recover as long as we seek for help.  If my brokenness can prevent others from going down that path, then it is all worth it for me to share my story; the good, the bad and the ugly,” Willard says.

“What First Responders and helping professionals are exposed to and experience on the frontlines takes its toll on all aspects of their lives as well as the public they serve.  Sadly, the impact of these stressors accumulate and can become very toxic resulting in burnout, illness, short term disability, reckless behaviour, divorce and increasingly suicide,” Willard explains.

While Canada has the highest incidence of PTSD in 24 countries studied, military personnel, first responders, doctors, and nurses experience higher rates of PTSD than other professions. (

Using what she has learned through formal trauma training, Melanie Willard will teach proven strategies for increasing resiliency and counteracting job-related stress. Included in the evening will be information about how compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma and burnout are the result of caring; PTSD (signs, preventions & recovery); the role of empathy & intuition; self-care strategies that work and how to rehumanize yourself.

There is no charge to attend the presentation, which takes place on Thursday, April 26, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Archie Hardy Hall (attached to Knox Presbyterian Church) at 29 High Street in Vankleek Hill.

Please reserve your space: [email protected] OR 613.678.2002.