Chair of police board calls for more mental health funding after officer's death from PTSD
LONDON, ONT. -- A day after London police revealed one of their officers died from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), there are calls to do more to support the mental health of first responders.
“We definitely need more resources. I used to be shy about saying that, because people would respond by thinking all they’re asking for is more and more and more,” admits chair of the London Police Services Board, Dr. Javeed Sukhera. “But it’s clear to me that mental health is extremely underfunded.”
Sukhera works in mental health and psychiatry.
Following this week’s death of Const. Omar Hassan after a long battle with PTSD, Sukhera emphasizes the need for senior governments to invest in specialized mental health programs for first responders.
“When it comes to first responders mental health, we need special programs,” he explains. “You can’t expect people who are struggling to be able to access the same resources without appreciating the nuances, the context and the kind of struggles that (first responders) have.”
On Thursday, London police Chief Steve Williams wrote in a statement, “Raising awareness of, and having conversations about, the mental health of our members in crucial.”
But discussing PTSD and deaths caused by PTSD has often been taboo.
Ending the stigma requires careful conversation within the community, the media and social media according to Sukhera.
“Focus on healing. Focus on the support that is available, and tell these stories and have the conversation with an emphasis on compassion.”
He adds that the public outpouring of sympathy on social media after the PTSD death was announced would ideally focus on two points.
“This is a time for us to centre on those who are struggling, and honour the memory of the life that was lost.”