Another OPP officer dies by suicide

Suicides among OPP officers are higher than on-duty deaths. Moreover, OPP does not formally keep track of the number of officers that have taken their own lives.

Another OPP officer dies by suicide

Postby Thomas » Sat Mar 23, 2019 7:59 am

An Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) constable at a detachment in Ottawa has taken his own life, the 13th reported suicide of an active or retired member of the police force since 2012.

Interim commissioner Gary Couture sent a memo to all members of the OPP on March 20 informing them of the death.

"I encourage members to connect with each other and seek the social supports and resources that work for you during this difficult time, and any time you need support," Couture wrote.

The name of the constable has not been publicly released, but CBC News has learned he worked at the Kanata detachment in Ottawa's west end.

Staff Sgt. Carole Dionne, the OPP's provincial media relations co-ordinator, confirmed that a member had died, but couldn't provide any further details.

Multiple investigations

Ontario's chief coroner is set to look into police suicides starting this spring after nine police officers from various forces across the province took their lives in 2018.

In August 2018 Vince Hawkes, the OPP commissioner at the time, launched an internal review of suicides within the provincial police service.

"Clearly we need to do more," Hawkes said at the time. "There are serious gaps and barriers that require further review and examination."

Hawkes has since retired and it's unclear what stage that internal review is at now.

In March CBC's The Fifth Estate looked into suicides at the OPP and spoke to the acting commissioner and head of the OPP's wellness unit.

Police association concerned

Ontario Provincial Police Association president Rob Jamieson said the labour group is very concerned about suicides on the force.

"We have expressed our concern for quite some time. We have called out the fact that this is a real issue, not only affecting our members of law enforcement, such as our uniform and civilian members, but it cuts across the wider first responder community as well," Jamieson said.

"We recognize that stigma, still to this day, prevents some of our members from seeking the help that they need."

The police association said it is available to provide support not only to its members, but also to the family of the police officer who died recently. ... -1.5065932
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'I felt that I wasn't valued'

Postby Thomas » Sat Mar 23, 2019 8:04 am

'I felt that I wasn't valued': In the wake of another OPP suicide, a former officer speaks out

Sheri Kewley retired after 10 years with Ontario Provincial Police. She's lost 2 colleagues to suicide since

At the north Toronto flower shop where she works today, Sheri Kewley doesn't have a pension. She makes a lot less than she did as a police officer.

But it's amongst the blooms and greenery that she finds her happiness now.

Kewley, a former officer with the Ontario Provincial Police, served with the force for 10 years and retired in 2006. Since then, suicide has claimed the lives of two of her fellow officers — two too many.

Roch Durivage was one of them.

Durivage, an OPP constable based at a west-end Ottawa detachment, took his life this week, marking the 13th reported suicide of an active or retired member of the force since 2012. Kewley learned of his death Wednesday, when an email went out from the president of the union representing OPP members, the Ontario Provincial Police Association.

"I knew Roch when he came on the job. He was a rookie working at the detachment that I worked at. And he was such a solid guy. He'd come out of the military really smart, really humble — always had a smile on his face... He didn't seem like the kind of person that would go through something like that."

'It's real'

But of course there is no one kind of person that struggles with mental health.

Kewley knows that firsthand.

Ten years ago, she says she would have never admitted she suffered from depression. But in the wake of yet another life lost to suicide, she's chosen to speak out now about what she says is a lack of support for people suffering inside the force — and a layer of upper management that she believes is out of touch with those struggles.

"Not everyone, some are great. Some need to reflect on how they treat people," she said. "It's real. When someone thinks they're going to get shamed for saying, 'I'm not well and I need time off.' That's what results in people like Roch taking their lives."

Kewley's own experience with depression began around the time she returned to work after maternity leave. A few weeks in, she said her sergeant called her into his office and asked if she was okay. "You don't seem like yourself... you should go and talk to somebody," she remembers him telling her.

At first, she resisted. But the feelings of worthlessness only grew when a position she applied for was given to someone she believes wasn't qualified for the job.

"Not getting that job somehow just made everything collapse on me," she said. That's when Kewley visited her doctor and was put on sick leave for three months.

Perception that those who help don't need it

Formally diagnosed with depression, Kewley was on therapy and medication, finally starting to feel better. But things only went downhill, she says, when she applied for a transfer within the force and a higher-ranking member suggested she was faking her illness.

"I felt that I wasn't valued. And my mental health and personal issues in relation to my job — they weren't valued," she said.

Between the death, car accidents and family tragedies they respond to on a regular basis, being an officer is hard enough. "You always sort of see people at their worst," said Kewley.

But on top of that, she says, is the perception that those whose job it is to help aren't supposed to need help themselves.

"A lot of times, officers are afraid to speak up and say they're unwell because they don't want to risk not being able to get a transfer, not being able to get a promotion, because they've got that mark against them for being off."

It's a problem the OPP has vowed to look into. In August 2018, Vince Hawkes, then-OPP commissioner, launched an internal review into officer suicides — something they expect to complete this spring.

Review expected to be completed in spring

The union too acknowledges more needs to be done and says it's hoping to take tangible action towards a comprehensive mental health plan, the details of which will likely be announced within weeks, said Ontario Provincial Police Association President Rob Jamieson.

"We sacrifice ourselves piece by piece, in the name of keeping our communities safe," he said in a letter to members this week. "For that, you are heroes in every sense of the word; however the burden you carry cannot and should not be shouldered alone."

"I'm here to say front and centre that in fact stigma creates a significant barrier for those seeking treatment within the culture of the OPP," he told CBC News. "The criticisms that are out there, some of them are very valid and we have to do better."

For her part, Kewley is trying to be optimistic.

"I hope that we can get to the point that nobody is afraid to get up and say they're suffering with mental illness or that they need help," she said.

"I just hope that the people at the top will look at themselves as they look at this." ... -1.5068591
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OPP union launching its own suicide prevention program

Postby Thomas » Mon Mar 25, 2019 4:36 pm

Police association hasn't been consulted on internal review due this spring

The union representing OPP employees says it can't wait for the force to complete an internal review of suicides among its members, so it's launching its own mental health support program.

The Ontario Provincial Police Association (OPPA) made the announcement Friday, one day after news that yet another OPP officer had taken his own life.

It was the 13th reported suicide of an active or retired member of the provincial force since 2012.

"We can be leaders and support our people. We feel this program will provide members incredible support, support that they need," OPPA president Rob Jamieson said.

Last week, interim OPP commissioner Gary Couture sent a memo to all members informing them of the death of a constable by suicide.

The OPP recently created a wellness unit, expanded their peer support program and compiled list of qualified psychologists in communities in which it operates.

But the union says its members need more. Its new program, which will be formally announced in the coming weeks, will provide assistance above and beyond whatever changes the OPP introduces when its review wraps up this spring.

"The OPP is doing those things and doing their reviews, but what we're doing from an association perspective is saying, 'Listen, our people need help right now,'" Jamieson said.

Recommendations haven't been implemented

The review announced by former OPP commissioner Vince Hawkes in August 2018 followed a 2012 ombudsman's review of OPP suicides that made a series of recommendations.

According to a documentary by CBC's The Fifth Estate, however, many of those recommendations haven't been implemented.

One thing made clear when the review was announced is that the current support system is too complicated for some officers to navigate.

"If they're in trouble they don't want to get on a phone line and be put off to somebody else," Hawkes said at the time. "There's a high sense of frustration, and that adds to the stress."

OPPA says it wasn't consulted

The OPPA said it was never contacted for input on the internal review. The OPP could not confirm whether that would happen before the expected completion date.

In a statement, OPP Staff Sgt. Carolle Dionne said the force was "optimistic that the internal review will shed further light on how the OPP can best support our people."

A separate coroner's investigation into police deaths in the province announced in January will involve the OPPA.

"We will be providing our perspective and bringing together our legal officers, our benefits team, our executive officers and their perspectives — folks that have worked specifically on the association side, who have unique insights that need to be shared," Jamieson said. ... -1.5067992
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