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We are Expanding !

Our mission and vision of engaging and supporting youth and families to build their own strong mental health is now expanding to our new Company - Shoulder To Shoulder 

Stay tuned for the launch of exciting new services and products designed by Dr Helena Hawryluk and Jerris Popik

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Student Mental Health Program

Set youth up with active coping tools for building positive and strong mental health. Group programs make a greater impact on youth mental health



Working Towards a Brighter Future

Providing children, families and First Responder organizations faced with trauma a pathway to resilience with an emphasis on identifying and honouring strengths within each child and each family support system.


Supports and Services for First Responders, Military and Veterans

With over 15 years of working with Canadian Armed Forces families, Dr. Helena Hawryluk and Jerris Popik MSW, RSW have seen how families can often sacrifice their own well-being in relation to the stress of the job. Now our various supports and services are uniquely tailored to focus on supporting individuals, couples and kids impacted by operational stress related to work as a first-responder, military or veteran.


Knowledge is power. Let’s normalize invisible injuries in families of military, veterans and first responders through creatively designed resources. Pre-order your own copy of new children's book and family resource; Larry's Big Adventure: Understanding Operational Stress Injuries in First Responders 



Families deserve mental health support from service providers who value the unique culture of first responders and military work. It’s time to start advocating for the voices of families to be heard. Check out our Support Services including One on One Counselling and Child, Youth and Family Counselling


Resilience is about cultivating hope. Let's think outside the box and create communities of care through excellently designed evidence-based programs for kids impacted by invisible injuries. A proud partnership with Wounded Warriors Canada makes this program available for free to Canadian Public Safety Personnel, military and veterans.

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Upcoming Events & Services

Woman at Work


Our 4-week psycho-educational group brings together individuals experiencing common life stressors involved with caregiving for a loved one who has been impacted by an operational stress injury within the first responder, military or veteran community (serving or veteran).

Joining a facilitated group can provide wellness benefits to you, your spouse and your children. This small group format will be facilitated by Dr. Helena Hawryluk & Jerris Popik MSW, RSW to allow for wrap-around support and provide strategies specific to you and your family. 

We are now taking registrations for the Fall/Winter 2021/22 Virtual Support group. The group will run for 4 weeks from 6:30-8:00pm MST giving you a chance to spend time on building your own wellness plan related to the unique stressors of first responder life.

Feel the benefits! Shared experiences can be used as powerful catalysts for promoting personal reflection and continued growth for self care and stress reduction. 

Group will be limited to 10 participants.
Registration cost for 4 weeks $550/ per person*
*This cost is eligible for reimbursement through your public service healthcare plan. Forms and invoice will be provided after registration by Dr. Helena Hawryluk, RSW. Any questions regarding this reimbursement please contact directly.

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Educating Helping Professionals in Understanding the Cascading Risk Effects of Occupational Trauma

Here at Families First, we are driven by a single goal; educate and support individuals, families and organizations on the impact of trauma and help foster opportunities for growth.


Important topics covered  include: 

1) ways to talk to individuals about what PTSD or an occupational stress injury is;


2) gain a deeper understanding of the unique impact OSI’s have on loved ones (children & spouses)

3) activities parents can take home and use with children to help describe mental health of a parent; 

4) describe how creating a safe and open environment for children to talk or ask questions related to their parent’s injury 

1 Hour Workshop $2000

2 Hour Workshop $2500

3 Hour Workshop $3000

Includes downloadable handouts and video recording

Mother with her Son

“One is not always happy when one is good; but one is always good when one is happy”

Oscar Wilde



Committed to the Cause



Helena Hawryluk is a Registered Social Worker and co-founder of Families First: Support for Occupational Stress Inc. For over a decade, she has worked as a social worker with military and Veteran families who have been impacted by Operational Stress Injuries. Helena completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology at Concordia University and a Bachelor of Social Work from University of Calgary. She continued with the Faculty of Social Work for her masters degree where she specialized in clinical social work and focused her training on the impact of trauma on children and youth within the Canadian Armed Forces. Her doctoral research examined the unique lives of adolescents living on a Canadian Armed Forces Base and experiencing reintegration post-Afghanistan deployments. The aim of the research is to develop a better understanding of military youth resilience in order to develop more youth-centred programs. She was also awarded the Wounded Warriors Canada Doctoral Scholarship. 

Helena has been an instructor at Grant MacEwan University with the School of Social Work for several years, where she teaches on family violence, assessment theory and practice of social work methods and supervises placement students as faculty coordinator. She has also taught at the University of Calgary, Faculty of Social Work graduate program. Finally, Helena has expanded her work with first responders through conducting a needs assessment with Correctional Services of Canada at the Edmonton Institution which focused on assessing the workplace culture.


Jerris is the co-founder of Families First: Support for Occupational Stress Injuries Inc. working to advocate for valued specialized support services for families and children of Canada’s military, veteran and Public Safety Personnel. With over nine years of experience working directly with children and youth from the Canadian Armed Forces, Jerris values the opportunities to work alongside families that are affected by Operational Stress Injuries. Her passion for working with children and supporting them with understanding this often-challenging concept of invisible injuries, led her to focus her current completion of a Masters of Clinical Social Work through the University of Calgary, on furthering her understanding on current evidence based research on the impact of trauma on  military, veterans, first responders, and all public safety personnel and their loved ones. 

In her professional growth toward furthering an understanding on workplace culture and impact of trauma, Jerris recently completed a needs assessment with Correctional Services of Canada at the Edmonton Institution.

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Collaborative & Innovative



Making a Difference

We see every challenge as an opportunity, and this initiative helps us ensure that our partners are better prepared to manage the unique situations they find themselves in. We are invested in an innovative approach that empowers our community and delivers the support they need, when they need it.

Completed project partners include Alberta Peace Officers Association, Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research

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Understanding the Need

If your organization or community wants to know what problem is most important, and which solutions are most likely to be helpful, you will need to establish what are the most pressing problems for community or workplace members.

There are lots of ways to find out what risks a community faces, what they need,
and the strengths they have to overcome bad situations. Connect with us to discuss a custom designed community needs assessment as the next step to gain a better understanding of your community’s strengths and challenges.

Completed project partners include; Correctional Service Canada, Edmonton Institution Needs Assessment and Analysis

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Tackling the Issue

Most of our efforts pertaining to this program involve studying new approaches and developing innovative ways to implement them. We evaluate our success in this field by gathering qualitative and quantitative data, and using that information to measure shifts and changes from our baseline measurements.

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