Police get trained in mental health

Sometimes, even the city’s law enforcement officers need a little more training.

Waterloo Regional Police Services representatives recently attended a convention in Toronto to learn effective strategies to deal with mental health issues on the job.

Mental wellness of police officers and victims of crimes is a growing concern for those working in law enforcement.

Many of the crimes, scenes, testimonies and images seen on duty can become quite traumatizing, leaving lasting effects.

“It created some synergy and momentum to keep this dialogue going, and to engage in a broader sector than can look at practices and initiatives on what we can do as police leaders to take care of the mental health of our members,” WRPS chief of police Matt Torigian explained on the value of the conference.

Police officers were not the only individuals who occupied the conference — there were numerous

community members, health practitioners, governance bodies and civilians.

Some individuals shared their stories of mental health or victimization.

“It was a very broad representation of our communities and our stakeholders,” said Torigian.

According to Torigian, the conference was intended to not only educate police officers in responding to mental illness, but also to demonstrate what other services are doing to “keep their members healthy.”

The conference also facilitated a sphere for open dialogue regarding future mental health initiatives.

However, mental health does not only effect field officers.

Other police employees such as secretarial staff, administration and custodial workers are also exposed to some disturbing sights.

Torigian reflected back on a fallen officer from the Hamilton police unit, lost as a result of suicide.

In December of last year, Hamilton staff sergeant Ian Matthews shot himself at the central police station and died.

“We see there are a number of examples where police members find themselves in a difficult situation as a result of the stresses that come from work, in particular, occupation stress injuries,” Torigian said.

Two researchers, Dorothy Cotton and Terry Coleman, are now taking on the job to develop strategies for standardized training and education for police members regarding mental health.

This is scheduled to be released later this spring.

“There is a need to ensure and put on energies to outcome focused evaluation,” said Torigian. “In order to do that we need to make sure we have proper data.”

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