Members’ Mental Health paramount for Toronto Police

By Ron Fanfair

Ron Fanfair




To mark the 14th anniversary since the largest corporate commitment to mental health in Canada was initiated, Toronto Police Service Chief Myron Demkiw raised the ‘Bell Let’s Talk’ flag at police headquarters on January 24.

He said the Service is fully committed to the national conversation to help raise awareness, reduce stigma and ultimately make mental health a safe topic to discuss openly.

“The last few years have seen immense pressure on the policing sector and the pressure on police officers, in particular, can take a personal toll on them as well as their colleagues, friends and families,” Demkiw said.

Four people at the bottom of the frame look towards a central pole, where a Bell Let's Talk flag is being raised
Chief Demkiw raises the Bell Let's Talk flag while members of the Wellness Unit look on Photo: Brent Smyth

Canada’s largest municipal police service has experienced continued pressure on frontline and senior officers managing the impacts of the Middle East crisis in Toronto, an increase in hate crimes, line of duty deaths and a rise in carjackings, auto thefts and home invasions.

“All of these examples, and more, have led to intense workloads and increased stress on many members in our organization,” Demkiw pointed out. “The wellbeing of our members has long been of concern to me, the Command and to our Toronto Police Services Board.”

He praised the Wellness Team for stepping up and developing mental health programs that provide members with the tools and skills they need to be mentally well.

They include the Before Operational Stress Program, the Peer Support Transformational Project, the creation of a Mental Health Promotion Strategy and the introduction of three Wellbeing Co-ordinators.

“In addition to this work, many members, leaders and mental health advocates within the Service have courageously shared personal stories about their own mental health journeys, further breaking down walls and stigma in our organization,” Demkiw added. 

“I personally do that myself when I meet our new recruits. I also ask them to sign a commitment to themselves to look after their mental health and wellbeing as they begin their careers in policing. By talking about your own experiences, you may help someone who is struggling to see that they are not alone and that asking for help will make a difference.”

Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) Executive Director Dr. Dubi Kanengisser reiterated that his organization has the ultimate responsibility for the health and safety of Service members.

“We will continue to support the Service’s efforts to protect the mental health of its membership, including reducing stigma around seeking help and making conversations about mental health normal and commonplace,” he said. “The health and mental health of our members is a paramount priority.

In the foreground a brown dog wearing a Bell Let's Talk scarf looks to the right, while his handler smiles at him from the background
Louis, the newest therapy dog at TPS, attended the flag raising Photo: Brent Smyth

“Any death of an officer is a poignant and devastating event that leaves a deep impact not only on the police service and community that the officer served, but on the wider and intensely connected policing community that you are all a part of. The recent frequency with which we have had to mark these saddest of occasions is both jarring and heartbreaking.”

The TPSB has supported proactive strategies aimed at enhancing mental health and psychological wellness.

“As we know, in order to best support members and in response to members’ feedback, the Service’s Wellness Group is shifting to a regional model where dedicated teams wrap around a regional group, providing innovative and dynamic support that reflects the complex needs of our workplace,” Kanensigger added.

Toronto Police Association Vice-President Brian Callanan said the TPA is always advocating for its members to have the most qualified, accessible and suitable assistance available because they deserve nothing less. 

“Every day they report for work, often under very challenging circumstances and do what needs to be done to keep our communities safe,” he said. “This is becoming increasingly difficult with increased calls for service and fewer members on the road. Spending eight, 10 and even 12 hours and more and going from emergency call to call is taking its toll and inevitably impacting the mental wellness of our people. It is why days like this are so important.”

‘Bell Let’s Talk Day’ is a multi-year initiative dedicated to the promotion and support of mental health across Canada.

Since 2010, Bell has partnered with over 15,000 organizations to provide free mental health support services, focusing on anti-stigma, care and access and workplace mental health and research.



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