Supporting the mental health of first responders
After three Ontario Provincial Police officers took their own lives this month, there have been calls for more mental health support for first responders among the law enforcement community.
Greater Sudbury Police say they do have programs in place, but would like more provincial funding to expand them.
Law enforcement is a profession that often leaves officers with deep emotional scars.
“It's heartbreaking, you know. This is a tough profession and it's a profession that asks a lot of its people. And when we see the profession being so heavy on individuals that they see the only way out is taking their own life, it's tragic.” said Chief Paul Pedersen of Greater Sudbury Police Service.
Chief Pedersen is hopeful for provincial funding to support voluntary psychological testing to give first responders a base to work from if they encounter emotional or mental health issues.
“This provincial support is going to help reduce the stigma and potentially make it as commonplace as a physical check-up on a regular basis, a mental check up on a regular basis as well, is what we are hoping for.” said Pedersen.
Right now the Greater Sudbury Police Service offers a confidential peer-to-peer support program.
Carrie-Lynn Hotson is a human resources manager for Greater Sudbury Police Service.
“They were given specialized training. They were taught the different resources we have. They were also given education on signs and symptoms of occupational stress, suicidal tendencies, and how to talk to people if they just need to debrief something.” said Hotson.
Another program the service offers is called Road to Mental Readiness.
“It enables people to understand the importance of resilience, the importance of recognizing in themselves and other people the signs and symptoms of people when they are dealing with their own stresses.” said Hotson.
If provincial funding comes through, the service hopes to expand its Road to Mental Readiness program by adding a family component.
One that could help others recognize warning signs that a loved one needs help and support.