9 Police Officers Die by Suicide in 2018 Prompting Ontario Panel to Take Action

9 Police Officers Die by Suicide in 2018 Prompting Ontario Panel to Take Action

This week is Mental Illness Awareness Week, and we wanted to take this opportunity to highlight a recent article by CBC News (CBC) covering police officer suicides. According to CBC, the Ontario coroner’s panel is making 14 new recommendations, and among them, they’re recommending tracking 1st responder suicides, and creating a new provincial mental health agency. These recommendations are aimed at addressing mental health issues that can stem from specific situations that officers might face in their workplace. The panel released a report, and concluded that, among other things, “police officers need better and clearer mental health and suicide prevention resources.”

The report highlights the need for a change in the stigma surrounding mental health; of particular note, instituting an educational program to better train officers when initially recruited, and throughout their career. CBC interviewed Dr. Dirk Hyer, Ontario’s chief coroner, and he said, “police officers are people who have great responsibility within our society and yet they’re also under significant scrutiny and accountability for their action.”

Dr. Hyer added that officers who might be affected by mental health issues don’t want to be associated with some of the people they see in the workplace who also suffer from mental health issues. Ending this stigma around mental health is essential to removing the barriers between these officers and the vital support they need.

The report demonstrates the necessity for better mental health education, increased individual attention and support, and a focus on ending the stigma around mental health. For more information on the report, click the link below:

CBC News, Panel on police suicides says officers need better mental health support, https://www-cbc-ca.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.cbc.ca/amp/1.5305504

Examples of Challenges to your Mental Health:

  • Being stressed or overwhelmed – could be caused by work, relationships, school, finances, etc.
  • Feeling sad over a loss
  • Feeling anxious due to an obligation such as a test, an important meeting, or event
  • Feelings of being unfulfilled due to a lack of self-care
  • Experiencing compassion fatigue or burnout
  • Avoidance of social engagements or hyperarousal when contemplating returning to activities

What can you do as an Employer?

  • Prevention is number one!
  • Ensure that you have audited your workplace for psychological risk factors
  • Consider psychological health when planning workplace supports and programs
  • Train your managers on ways to support employee mental health
  • Provide employees with training and support for mental health resiliency
  • Implement Critical Stress Management Programs in your workplace
  • Consider peer support programs for your team
  • As a leader in your workplace, model healthy workplace behaviours for mental health

How Can We Take Care of Our Mental Health?

  • Build resiliency – physical, emotional, social, thinking and spiritual resiliency
  • Practice gratitude – focus on the things in your life that you are grateful for
  • Practice mindfulness – try grounding techniques and being present in the moment
  • Take time for things that matter to you – hobbies, reading, getting out in nature, etc.
  • Engage in social interactions – laughing with friends and spending time with loved ones
  • Participate in physical resiliency activities such as exercise, sports, or going for walks
  • Contact your emotional supports when you are going through a challenge or have experienced trauma
  • Get help to learn new ways to examine your experiences and find strategies to manage any anxiety or mood changes
  • Ask for help – call a distress line, call your EAP or talk to your health professional if you are distressed or thinking of taking your own life or not feeling yourself.

How can Gowan Consulting Help?

Gowan Consulting has Occupational Therapists for assisting with managing mental health in the workplace. We’re in a new era of inspiring positive change surrounding mental health in the workplace, and we want to talk about it, understand it, and be open about it!

Gowan Consulting can assist with auditing for risks and implementing the psychological health and safety in the workplace standards. Our Occupational Therapists can provide training to your managers on supporting mental health in the workplace and provide training for employees on mental health resiliency.

For more on all we have to offer, contact us! We want to help make the difference in your healthy business!

Works cited:

CBC News, Panel on police suicides says officers need better mental health support, https://www-cbc-ca.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.cbc.ca/amp/1.5305504

CSA National Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace Standards, https://www.csagroup.org/documents/codes-and-standards/publications/CAN_CSA-Z1003-13_BNQ_9700-803_2013_EN.pdf

Annals of Work Exposures and Health, Volume 63, Issue 5, June 2019, Pages 546–559,https://doi.org/10.1093/annweh/wxz028

2 comments on “9 Police Officers Die by Suicide in 2018 Prompting Ontario Panel to Take Action

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    Romaine says:

    I am surprised that this blog states that police officer “commit” suicide. I learnt that one way to end this stigma is to avoid labeling suicide as a crime. The police officers died by suicide.

    • Avatar
      Nancy Gowan says:

      Thank you for this comment Romaine… It is true that the original blog and post included stigmatizing wording. We apologize for this error. The learning for all of us is that we still have so much stigma in our workplaces and in our lives that we automatically use words and actions that cause this stigma. We have changed the wording, posted an apology and education on the wording that must change to support those dealing with the tragedy of suicide. Thank you for alerting us to this and helping us and those around us learn more each day to support mental health and wellbeing.


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