Guelph research institute focused on understanding PTSD

 GUELPH — The complexity of post-traumatic stress disorder is only beginning to emerge, and the Homewood Research Institute in Guelph aims to get a better understanding of the disorder and how best to treat it.

“There are many dimensions of this we’re still figuring out,” said Roy Cameron, the institute’s executive director. “There’s room to improve treatment, there’s room to better tailor treatment to individual needs.”

Homewood Research Institute is a charitable organization that partners with Homewood Health Centre, which provides mental health and addiction services.

“The purpose of our institute is to do very practical research that will improve care,” Cameron said.

The partnership is key, providing researchers at the institute with a “living research laboratory.” Measuring outcomes is also an essential part of its research to determine whether treatments are effective.

“It’s a very unique set of things that we’re doing,” Cameron said.

The focus was first on addiction, and now it is also looking at post-traumatic stress disorder among military veterans and first responders, including police, firefighters and paramedics.

Post-traumatic stress disorder doesn’t respond well to traditional treatments.

“We have to be innovative,” Cameron said.

Partly that’s related to the brain changes that are a result of chronic or acute exposure to stress, and addressing those changes must be considered to help a person fully recover.

“It’s not just something that affects their behaviour. It’s something that affects them physically,” Cameron said.

Different types of the disorder are also emerging, such as a dissociative subtype that causes people to experience a sense of unreality.

“Things just don’t feel authentic,” Cameron said.

For some, there’s a moral aspect. They feel guilt about what they couldn’t do, or not being able to help everyone. Researchers want to understand this “moral injury,” how it appears clinically and how to treat it.

Due to the disorder’s complexity, one approach to treatment won’t be effective.

One promising new treatment is using neurofeedback as a tool for people to calm themselves, since difficulty controlling emotions is a hallmark of the disorder.

“Emotions just get out of hand,” Cameron said.

Military and first responders “deal with situations on behalf of us that nobody should be exposed to,” he said.

The toll of untreated mental illness is huge on family, work and life satisfaction

“It’s very disruptive,” Cameron said.

An event is being held May 1 at Guelph’s River Run Centre  to support the Homewood Research Institute. The one-woman play by actor and comedian Shelley Marshall called “Hold Mommy’s Cigarette” is autobiographical, drawing on her childhood in a dysfunctional home fraught with depression, trauma and suicide.


Original Story

Attitudes evolving toward PTSD, police chief says

‘There was a time when these types of things were not only unrecognized, but were hidden’


Attitudes toward post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and policing have changed considerably since he began his career, Greater Sudbury Police Chief Paul Pedersen said this week. 

“I’ve been in the profession a very long time,” Pedersen said. “There was a time when these types of things were not only unrecognized, but were hidden. There was a stigma associated with mental illness that suggested there was a weakness of character.”

The chief was speaking after a police services board meeting this week, in which the force outlined its policies for helping front-line workers with PTSD.

Police had until April 23 to do so under the Supporting Ontario’s First Responders Act, passed in the Ontario Legislature this month. It creates a presumption that PTSD diagnosed in first responders is work-related.

That presumption allows for faster access to WSIB benefits, resources, and timely treatment. The legislation is part of the province’s strategy to prevent or mitigate the risk of PTSD and provide first responders with faster access to treatment and the information. 

“I think we’ve evolved,” Pedersen said, when asked about current attitudes toward mental health issues. “Certainly, the attitude we have here in Greater Sudbury Police Service is one of support. If someone breaks their leg, everybody rallies around and says how can we fix it? If there’s a break we can’t see, we’re also rallying around now.

“That’s a huge shift for our profession.”

While Sudbury police had to file a plan, Pedersen said they were already leaders in the province when it comes to progressive attitudes toward PTSD. 

“Significant efforts are made to ensure the psychological health of members is maintained,” says a report on the plan. “Pre-hire, officers participate in a psychological screening and one-on-one visit with the service psychologist. Once hired, all recruits meet with the service psychologist prior to attending the Ontario Police College and on their return, and one year following return.”

Staff at a higher risk of suffering harmful psychological effects participate in more structured programs. They include areas such as forensics, cybercrime, major crime, tactical unit and traffic Services. 

After a traumatic incident, officers who responded are debriefed by staff with specialized training.

“The team provides immediate peer support and access to resources for members who have been involved in potentially traumatic events,” the report said. “The goal is to monitor members post event and off support services where identified.” 

And in 2016, police provided Road to Mental Readiness Training to all members. 

“The service’s goal has been to promote a cultural shift which supports greater acceptance of the importance of psychological health and to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues and seeking help,” the report said.

“Ongoing annual in-service training will also include education and awareness sessions on mental health and wellness with specific emphasis on observing signs and signals of distress to ensure early intervention.”

Original Story

Toronto police memorial will now include officers lost to suicide

Police officers who die by suicide in Toronto will soon have the same right to have their names included on the Memorial Wall as those who die by physical on-the-job injuries.

CityNews has obtained details of a settlement between the Ontario Human Rights commission and Toronto police, which outlines how and when police must end what the Commission has described as “discrimination based on disability.”

There has been debate for years as to whose name qualifies for the Toronto police memorial. Both the police brass and the union have blocked attempts to include the names of officers who died from job-related suicide.

Thursday’s settlement is a result of a claim filed by the family of Sgt. Eddie Adamson, who died after one of the darkest days in Toronto police history.

On March 14, 1980, Adamson’s partner Const. Michael Sweet was shot to death during a botched robbery and hostage-taking inside a Queen Street restaurant.

Sgt. Adamson never recovered. Twenty-five years later, in a motel room surrounded by articles about the tragedy, Sgt. Adamson shot himself. His widow Linda Adamson told CityNews in an interview a number of years ago, “Ed died that night. They didn’t kill one officer, they killed two. My husband just took 25 years to die.”

See the full story on Eddie Adamson below.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has now given Toronto police six months to “develop a process for the inclusion of names on the Memorial Wall.” That process, the Commission says, “shall be issued by the Chief of Police no later than Oct. 31, 2017.”

This doesn’t mean that officers who die by suicide will automatically have their names included on the wall, but it ensures “equal opportunity for inclusion as the names of members who die from physical injuries.”

In a statement, obtained by CityNews, the Chief of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Renu Mandhane, says the settlement will ensure that “all members who lose their lives in the line of duty are treated w

ith the same degree of recognition and respect.”

Original Story

Police adopt #PTSD plan – #thinblueline

Sudbury Canada Police Adopt PTSD Plan


Greater Sudbury, Canada Police Chief Paul Pedersen believes his service has come even farther than most in addressing post-traumatic stress and its impact on officers.

Pedersen ought to know, considering the change in both attitudes and actions related to PTSD during his policing career.

“Certainly, the profession is changing,” Pedersen said Wednesday, following a Greater Sudbury Police Services board meeting. “I have been in the profession a very long time and there was a time when these types of things were not only unrecognized, but were hidden, and there was a stigma associated with mental illness that suggested there was a weakness of character.

“I think we have evolved and certainly, the attitude we have here in Greater Sudbury Police Service is one of support. If somebody breaks their leg, everybody rallies around and says, ‘How can we fix it?’ If there’s a break that we can’t see, we’re also rallying around now and that’s a huge shift for our profession.”

Pedersen was pleased, then, to see the police services board vote to adopt a new post-traumatic stress disorder prevention plan at Wednesday’s meeting, in accordance with the Supporting Ontario’s First Responders Act, passed last year to amend the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act.

The new legislation creates a presumption that PTSD in first responders is work related, allowing for faster access to WSIB benefits, resources and treatment.

Employers of workers covered under the presumption were directed to provide the Ministry of Labour with information on their own PTSD prevention plans by April 23 of this year.

“I’m really proud to say that we were well ahead of this here in Greater Sudbury Police Service, not only focusing on post-traumatic stress disorder, but a variety of occupational stress injuries that can and do occur in the nature of our business,” Pedersen said.

The plan includes the police service’s employee assistance program, which provides confidential and professional support, guidance, counselling and referrals when required for personal challenges to members and their families, including post-traumatic stress disorder intervention.

The plan also includes psychological support. Areas identified as high risk for potential harmful psychological effects, such as forensics, cyber crime, major crime, tactical and traffic services, participate in more structured programs with the service psychologist.

The service has a critical incident response debriefing team, whose members are trained to provide immediate peer support ad access to resources for members who have been involved in potentially traumatic events.

Proactive measures include training, education and awareness. Annual in-service training will include education and awareness sessions on mental health and wellness with specific emphasis on observing signs and signals of distress to ensure early intervention.

“It’s all about continuing to promote mental wellness in the workplace, and more importantly changing that attitude, that stigma attached to mental illness,” said Sharon Baiden, Greater Sudbury Police Service CAO.

While PTSD diagnoses are confidential, Baiden said members have spoken out at training sessions and shared their journeys with PTSD.

“We do know the work that many of our officers do,” board member Frances Caldarelli said. “They see and experience some really terrible things and it can become a problem. For many years, it was a problem that nobody talked about and people had symptoms, but they really didn’t understand what was the matter. I’m really happy that the province has … encouraged services to set up plans that will see that they get the help they need.


Original Story

Insurer tells injured police man: you can be a librarian. 250 job applications later he’s jobless

A former policeman suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) claims he was ruled fit to work by his health insurer and told to look for jobs as …

former policeman suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) claims he was ruled fit to work by his health insurer and told to look for jobs as a librarian. Two-hundred and fifty applications later and he still hasn’t found work.

“After being medically discharged I wasn’t prepared for what came next but what came next was worse than the initial injury,” Watts told the Sydney Morning Herald.

The former cop had his claim for total and permanent disablement with NSW Police insurer Metlife rejected, and was instead recommended to seek work in a clerical role, as a librarian, a private investigator or a security consultant.

“I applied for nearly 250 jobs and it is impossible to get a job”, the 47-year-old said. He has no qualifications outside his police work, making applications for the jobs he was recommended extremely difficult. “I could apply to be a brain surgeon, but who is going to take me on. They don’t market test or speak to employment agencies and say ‘would you take this person on?'”, he told the newspaper.

“They send you to cash for comment doctors who make reports on you who say you can be a librarian.”

Watts claimed he spent half an hour being examined by Metlife Insurance doctors while the opinions of the doctors he’d been seeing for 10 years were ignored.

Watts was discharged from the police force after he admitted to suffering from severe anxiety and traumatic flashbacks.

“I’d walk into work and I’d be perspiring and my heart would be pounding at massive rates. I started having high blood pressure”, he told the newspaper. “I knew I wasn’t well. I realised if I put my hand up and said I’m not well that would be the end of my career so I tried struggle on.”

Mr. Watts claimed it took nearly four years for Metlife to reject his claim, during which time he and his family were put under surveillance.

“They were filming my children, photographing me out with friends. It made my hyper-vigilance way worse. It made me way worse and way more worried. It compounded the whole issue,” Watts said.

A spokeswoman for the insurance company told the Sydney Morning Herald surveillance is no longer used and in previous cases it was only employed when there’s inconsistencies in the information received within the claim. The spokeswoman was unable to comment on Watts’ case, due to the company’s privacy policies.   


Original Story