Holding the Line
A physical, safe place to be in crisis… What does this mean for us?
It is your last night shift and the queue is full. You had court between your nights and your four-month old is trying to figure out that night time is for sleeping not crying. To top it off, your spouse snaps about the lack of financial means to look after the overflow of bills. Your anxiety levels are high and the coffee and $5 Chinese food special is churning in your gut as you try to fit yet another paid duty in to bring financial relief. A recent call you attended haunts you; voices echo in your mind and visions replay over and over. You contemplate going home sick so you can have a few drinks to take the edge off but you know you will have to listen to your spouse go on about how you are doing nothing to help with the house and kids.
By Michelle Vincent
This description is a mild example of someone experiencing the post-traumatic stressors that occur from family life, court appearances, investigative overflow of files, personal challenges and the critical incidents we attend in the line of duty — all coming in at once.
As police officers we attend calls where family members are experiencing a serious mental health crisis and if criteria meets the threshold of apprehension, we are off to the emergency room with the possibility of the person being formed. That person is somebody’s loved one somewhere in the world.
Many times, we are only one experience away from being in the same place those people we attempt to support have found themselves. If this situation does become a reality, where are we going to go? To the hospital? Many of us would not be comfortable with this and would lie through our teeth if we thought a hospital was going to be the next place of residence in our mental health crisis.
We have some wonderful resources that offer residential respite and mental health care, but not everyone can afford this care at certain points in their lives. Additionally, we might be concerned about confidentiality… Who will be with us in this incredibly vulnerable time? Will we be understood?
Our profession is unique and brings many aspects that require special care in order for our mental health crisis to be dealt with effectively. Many would consider it to be sub-culture-specific and to provide proper support, those who are helping us navigate the crisis must have an understanding of both the language and organizational/platoon dynamics.
How do we fill this gap in the way care is provided for us? Let’s take a look at Quebec, where there is an incredible non-profit, occupational-specific, customized treatment centre that is open 24/7, 365 days a year. This centre, called La Vigile, is specifically for first responders and uniform personnel.
La Vigile is available in French only at this time. Having a bilingual version based out of Ontario could fill the gap in occupational-specific resources and may not only save the lives of our serving men and women, but also enrich their families, as they can rest assured their loved ones are being cared for.
What might this mean from a business perspective for Canadian policing and other first responder organizations and uniform personnel? The lessening of waitlists, immediate support for those in crisis and the return of members who are able to serve their communities as they were sworn to do. Liability from a service perspective is greatly reduced, as those split decisions we are making are being made with a clear, healthy and rejuvenated mind. Organizations supporting this resource may find their members feel a greater sense of value. It is a safe place for our members to be.
For further information on this upcoming resource please visit the website at www.lavigile.qc.ca. Click on “English” and then on “Discover Ontario!”
Michelle Vincent is a 15-year York Regional Police officer with a Masters Degree in Arts in Counselling Psychology and a background in equine assisted therapy, workplace reintegration and teaching. Her counselling practice is supervised by a psychologist with a specialty in addictions and trauma. She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.