Ontario taking steps to improve mental health supports for first responders
February 1, 2021 By Blue Line Staff
The Ontario government is establishing four new mental health collaborative tables to better support the mental health and well-being of policing, fire, corrections, and paramedic services personnel. The tables will help inform actions to change behaviours that stigmatize those struggling with mental health challenges, achieve a healthier work-life balance, promote mental health resiliency, and build awareness of supports, treatments and recovery options.
“Ontario’s public safety personnel and first responders see and experience incidents on a daily basis that most of us never have to face and this can have a severe impact on their well-being,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “We are supporting collaboration among those working in these sectors, individuals with lived experience and leading experts because we want to make sure that these important frontline workers have the supports and tools they need to take care of their mental health.”
Creating mental health collaborative tables is a key recommendation in the Ontario Chief Coroner’s Expert Panel’s report Staying Visible, Staying Connected, For Life which called for more information and resources to help officers and first responders deal with mental health issues.
The tables will bring together individuals from various sectors with a wide range of experience and expertise. Participation may be drawn from mental health service providers, researchers, and frontline workers, as well as representatives from Indigenous and diverse communities.
“We know our emergency first responders and public safety personnel often handle traumatic incidents and difficult situations that can affect their mental health and well-being,” said Michael Tibollo, associate minister of mental health and addictions. “Our government will always remain firmly committed to ensuring our frontline heroes have access to the most appropriate supports that meet their unique needs. These new mental health collaborative tables will take us one step further towards our goal of ensuring all Ontarians are fully supported in their journey towards mental wellness.”
“Supporting the mental health and wellness of our first responders is a shared responsibility,” said Dr. Dirk Huyer, Chief Coroner for Ontario. “The creation of these collaborative tables will provide the ability to better understand and address issues and concerns with knowledge, expertise, and compassion, with the goal of preventing further deaths.”
This initiative builds on Ontario’s Roadmap to Wellness, the government’s comprehensive plan to deliver high-quality care and build a modern, connected and comprehensive mental health and addictions system across Ontario.
“Our sworn and civilian police members throughout the province are committed to ensuring their communities are safe places to live and work, but that often means they are at a heightened risk for exposure to traumatic events that can have a lasting toll on their mental health and wellness,” said Police Association of Ontario President, Bruce Chapman. “The PAO has maintained our commitment to break down the stigma surrounding these issues in policing and advocate for the effective management of on-the-job trauma for all public safety personnel. We are optimistic the work of these tables will result in greater support for Ontario’s first responders and the unique challenges they face every single day.”
“On behalf of Ontario’s 11,000 professional firefighters, I commend the government for recognizing the stresses faced by fire fighters throughout the course of our careers,” said Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association President Carmen Santoro. “Incidents involving children, violence, inherent dangers of firefighting and other potentially traumatic events, can have a cumulative impact on mental health and well-being. The commitment to the collaborative mental health table will ultimately support and help with our members’ behavioural health.”
“What paramedics do every day is taxing and often challenging. Now more than ever, we need to care for those who care for others,” said Ontario Association of Paramedic Chiefs President Peter F. Dundas. “The OAPC welcomes this opportunity to not only speak about mental health but enhance programs that support paramedics and paramedic services.”
“The Corrections Division welcomes the invitation to these new Mental Health Collaborative Tables,” said Co-Chair of the Corrections Ministry Employee Relations Committee Chris Jackel. “This means we will have an active role in further meaningful discussions surrounding essential service mental health and occupational stress. This will go a long way in building supports and recovery for our Correctional Service Employees.”
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