After a difficult year for Nova Scotians, fishing communities on the south coast fear the loss of six fishermen who went missing on Tuesday.
The Nova Scotia Fisheries Safety Association announced to Global News that it has received funding from the Nova Scotia Mental Health Foundation and Nova Scotia Workers Compensation Board to cover the cost of grief counseling services for those involved in the tragedy.
These services are available to members and families of the Full Bay Scallop Association and to employees, families and friends of Yarmouth Sea Products, the company that employed the missing fishermen and the owner of the scallop tugboat Chief William Saulis, who sank with the crew on board.
“This is something that puts a lot of pressure on the industry as a whole. I can only imagine how family and friends feel,” said security advisor Matthew Duffy.
“We have members of our association who have used grief counseling in the past, and that made a big difference for many people in these difficult times.”
On Wednesday, Yarmouth Sea Products confirmed the names of the missing crew: Aaron Cogswell, Leonard Gabriel, Dan Forbes, Michael Drake and Geno Francis, and Captain Charles Roberts.
One man’s body was recovered late Tuesday, but searches for five more men continued on Wednesday when ground search teams said they wanted to shut down families. A neighbor of the man confirmed to Global News that it was Michael Drake.
The search was forwarded to RCMP as a recovery mission on Wednesday afternoon. On Thursday morning, the RCMP announced that the search had been temporarily suspended due to the incoming snow storm.
Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood says the suspension has been badly hit as families of the missing seek closure.
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“You can’t even put it into words. The grieving process is the most important and I don’t even know if we’re still there, ”she said.
“Fishing is a way of life here, it’s not just a job.”
Mood said she knew the missing fishermen. Lots of people did it because the church is so small. Now this community is in a state of numbness.
“We only wish and hope that we can take some of this pain away from families. That’s not how it works, but that’s how we are. “
While it did so for the right reasons, Thursday’s suspension slowed that grieving process, Mood said.
As part of the new initiative to provide grief counseling, Mood said the city of Yarmouth had set up one-on-one meetings with a local grief recovery specialist to get things started immediately.
She said the city will work with the association, the Workers Compensation Board and the Mental Health Foundation “to ensure everyone has access to the help they need”.
Duffy said he hoped anyone who found themselves in mental crisis after this tragedy would seek help.
“It’s a long-term, far-reaching effect that something like this has … Ultimately, it’s important to lean on those around you,” Duffy said.
“I think the industry will always be there for each other, and that’s really positive.”
He said the advisory collaboration will be open to those who need it, but will not be mandatory.
“We will work tirelessly to simplify these services in the coming days,” he said.