Ford government puts OPP suicides, PTSD on frontline

Suicides among OPP officers are higher than on-duty deaths. Moreover, OPP does not formally keep track of the number of officers that have taken their own lives.

Ford government puts OPP suicides, PTSD on frontline

Postby Thomas » Mon Apr 01, 2019 3:12 pm

BONOKOSKI: Ford government puts OPP suicides, PTSD on frontline

As suicides within the OPP continue to strain the force — the 13th suicide since 2012 occurred at a detachment on Ottawa’s outskirts mere days ago — Premier Doug Ford has hooked up his government with the police union to combat the psychological crippler and silent killer of post-traumatic stress disorder.

It was a long time coming and, while the announcement by Community Safety Minister Sylvia Jones was applauded by the president of the Ontario Provincial Police Association (OPPA), it undoubtedly received a more muted response from the police brass who have done little to stop PTSD’s relentless onslaught.

In 2012, after being made aware there were 23 suicides in the force since 1989, which represented two more officers than were officially killed in the line of duty, then ombudsman Andre Marin tabled his report on the largest investigation his office had undertaken, zeroing in on PTSD and the force’s almost cavalier attitude towards fighting it.

Only last August, shortly before he submitted his retirement papers did OPP commissioner Vince Hawkes order an internal inquiry into PTSD, assigning two respected staff superintendents to head up the probe.

The results of that investigation are expected any day now, but whether they will be made public is still unknown.

Insiders predict it will depend on what they say, and how they say it.

Cops killing themselves is a delicate matter, after all, and their deaths haul in a wide circle of others in their lives.

There is also the stigma of PTSD within the force, whether it be in a police force, the Armed Forces, or first responders who are all supposed to be able to “buck up and carry on” as if their psychological souls are unassailable.

And then, of course, there is the stain of suicide itself, and how it is considered among many in the higher ranks as “a coward’s way out.”

PTSD, which I have written about often, including in an award-winning series of articles in 2010, has a lot of emotional baggage.

And it comes with no easy answer.

According to Jones, this mental health program she sees developing for the OPP has yet to be costed out or fully conceptualized, but tenders for program proposals have now been requested. “When it comes to our frontline OPP officers, immediate action is needed,” said Jones. “(Their) jobs are challenging ones. (They) see tragedies that none of us would ever want to see, (and) experience situations we can only imagine.”

In fact, she said, over a rather standard 30-year career on the OPP, a frontline officer is exposed to more than 900 traumatic events.

Rob Jamieson, president of the OPPA, was present at the podium when Jones made her announcement on the mental-health program.

“During the past year, the tragedy of losing several members to suicide has made all of us reflect and examine how we as an association can offer additional support to our members and their families, both on a proactive basis and in times of crisis,” said Jamieson.

“The status quo simply cannot continue. The world has changed, and mental health treatment in our membership has not kept pace with the ever-changing demands of policing in the 21st century.”

In a few days, the internal report ordered by Hawkes should be completed.

It comes seven years after Marin laid waste with his.

https://torontosun.com/opinion/columnis ... -frontline
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