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.