Ontario launching new mental health supports for provincial police officers
Published Friday, March 29, 2019 12:09PM EDT Last Updated Friday, March 29, 2019 1:02PM EDT
Ontario announced new mental health supports for provincial police officers Friday, after more than a dozen have died by suicide in recent years.
Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Sylvia Jones said the Ontario Provincial Police are facing a mental health crisis, with 13 officers having taken their own lives since 2012.
"You experience situations we can only imagine," Jones told officers at the Ontario Provincial Police Association headquarters in Barrie, Ont.
"It is estimated that over a 30-year career a front-line police officer is exposed to more than 900 traumatic events ... You carry these experiences with you and if left untreated, that can lead to tragic results."
The province will fully fund the program, with the police union delivering it, but Jones couldn't say yet what the cost will be before the tendering process begins.
OPPA president Rob Jamieson called it a decisive first step in addressing what he calls the largest issue facing both active and retired members.
"Through this new program we will foster an environment where our members can freely come forward and get the help that they truly need -- an environment where the stigma that keeps our members from coming forward is eliminated and where a circle of trust is established to start the healing process."
Officers and their families will have access to confidential and personalized mental health supports and services, accessed through a "one-door approach" to ensure continuous support and guidance from beginning to end, Jones said.
"The current resources available to OPP officers is not enough," she said. "We need to do better. Police officers face a unique type of stress. The current system provides cookie cutter support, ignores the realities of being a front-line officer and we're fixing that."
It will include access to employee and family assistance programs, services for children and seniors, tele-health support, crisis intervention specialists and mental health treatment facilities.
The OPP launched an internal review after a spate of suicides among its ranks last summer.
Ontario's chief coroner is also looking into the issue, with a review of police suicides across the province after eight active officers and one recently retired officer died by suicide last year.