By Brieanna Charlebois
As stay-at-home orders became commonplace in response to the continued threat of COVID-19, the lack of interconnectivity and human connection has exacerbated the ongoing mental health crisis in Canada.
Life as we knew it pre-pandemic no longer exists. Those who were fortunate enough to keep their jobs began working from home, with the exception of frontline healthcare workers and first responders, who face added pressures and fears associated with the threat of the novel coronavirus. In April, the Secretary General of the United Nations reported the mental health and wellbeing of societies were severely affected by the pandemic. This remains a continuing and urgent priority to date. Fears about the health impacts of the virus, concerns for family members, extended social isolation, economic risk and uncertainty continue to be common sources of mental health distress around the world. As suicide and opioid-related deaths spiked across the country, police officers were among the first responders to feel the significant impacts of the tragedies.
As we take a deeper look at vast changes in law enforcement over the past year, it’s important to consider the mental health impacts of the virus. The mental wellness crises among first responders is an ongoing occupational health hazard, often the result of a stressful work environment, including exposure to significant trauma and tragedy faced daily by police. Stigma also continues playing a large role when accessing mental health supports—something we, as a society, must work to change.
This edition of Blue Line addresses this theme. It features a Q&A with Const. James Jefferson, wellness co-ordinator officer with the Greater Sudbury Police Service. Jefferson provides a first-person account of using his experience and PTSD to gain perspective, redefining and molding it into tool to help officers within his department. Similarly, in this month’s Holding the Line column, Michelle Vincent addresses the correlation between a lack of connectivity/human interaction and addiction, posing a new approach police could use in combating the ongoing opioid crisis while prioritizing their own mental health.
Departments across the country are working to provide better mental health resources to their officers. One such resource is the newly launched Espri by TELUS app, which offers a variety of features and tools including resource hub, a goal setting tool, a group video call feature and a resource list that links users to their department’s preferred support providers.
As I move into the new role of editor of Blue Line, I am also grappling with the challenge of creating meaningful connections with my new audience: you.
There’s no contest: face-to-face interactions create stronger bonds and allow for deeper conversations. Though these aren’t possible now, I am grateful to have been embraced by many within the Canadian policing community and am actively working to make meaningful connections wherever possible, virtually.
Countless Zoom calls later, I am confidently building toward better understanding the needs of Canadian law enforcement and want to encourage continued open communication. So, please feel free to reach out anytime and let’s keep breaking down barriers and building these ever-important connections!