Ottawa Police officers have resources to help deal with mental health issues

The spotlight is on mental health of police officers following the death of RCMP spokesman Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre, who took his own life July 29.

City cops in distress have a variety of resources, said Ottawa Police manager of health, safety & lifestyles Angela Slobodian.

Officers or family members with a “variety of life issues pulling them down” can contact the program for counselling.

“There’s nothing wrong with reaching out for help,” said Slobodian.

The utilization rate of their EAP was 10% in 2012, she said.

Officers can alternatively go to the police association, health and safety unit, or chaplain, however, 911 will be called if the officer is on the verge of harming themselves or others, and the cop will likely be stripped of their gun and badge.

In this sense, EAP “may or may not be something the officer buys into or trusts,” said psychologist Dr. Jeff Morley, a retired Royal Canadian Mounted Police Staff Sgt. in B.C.

“Often times those programs can be excellent. Other times, they’re very general and you know, cops tend to be a mistrusting bunch.”

Trust is a huge concern among the rank and file at Ottawa police, sources tell the Sun.

“There is no such thing as confidentiality,” said a source who has seen countless grisly crime scenes over the years, insisting the only support cops have “are your friends, family and any professional help that you can afford to pay for on your own.”

RCMP officers also pay for counselling out of their own pockets, out of fear management will find out, said Morley.

Although on-the-job incidents may have “deeply affected their lives, marriages, families,” ultimately “they do not want all this documented on their health files,” said Morley.

They also have concerns, he said, of documented issues affecting their chance to pursue work in specialty units, “or result in duty restrictions of different sorts.”

Other times, he said, officers will downplay their symptoms to avoid being removed from the section they have worked hard to get into.

Policing in general leaves cops mistrusting and hypervigilant, Morley said, “so that’s a piece of the challenge.”

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