As three OPP officers have committed suicide for the past month, the OPP Association is shouting out loud to their police force to tackle mental health issues in its ranks. She also urges her members to seek professional help immediately if they feel the need.
Sarah Routhier is the widow of Constable Sylvain Routhier, who committed suicide in late July at the age of 37. Her husband had over 13 years of service with the Ontario Provincial Police. The family, which has three children aged 5, 9 and 10, lives in Belleville in the eastern part of the province. “He was an extraordinary husband and father, an outstanding police officer and everyone appreciated him at work,” she says.
Constable Routhier had recently been assigned to crisis situations as a front line worker throughout the province. “It was called before for cases of aggression, violence, accidents. But he was later assigned to on-call emergencies such as hostage-taking or rescue operations.”
His widow decided today to discuss her husband’s mental health issues because he was too ashamed to talk about them, she said. “No one would have imagined that it would take away life, but it can happen to anyone, we should take the necessary action against stress or depression in the workplace. ”
Ms. Routhier stresses that front-line workers face very difficult working conditions, but that they must show as little emotion as possible. “For years, I have not seen anything unusual, he never talked about his difficulties at work, it did not worry me enough to suggest he consult a health professional. She adds that her husband was very good at not sharing his worries until, in April, he admitted to him that he no longer recognized himself.
He told me that he was insomniac and that he had suicidal thoughts; we then went to the hospital where he started a treatment that forced him to stop work.
Ms. Routhier said that her husband did not like the idea of being on sick leave because he had just been promoted to the rank of sergeant. She says he was worried about what his colleagues would say about him if they found out he was so stressed that he was sick. “On July 31, he was not home. I found a suicide note on our bed. I called 911, but it was already too late, “she said, letting her sobs burst.
In a statement, the police said the three officers who took their lives in a month belonged to detachments in the east and west of the province. OPP Association President Rob Jamieson is calling for a public debate on mental health in law enforcement with the involvement of hard-working families, governments and health professionals. “There is nothing shameful about asking for help, but the stigma of mental illness in society remains a barrier to treatment. ”
Ms. Routhier also believes in ending the alienation of people with mental health problems, particularly from front-line workers, whether police, ambulance or firefighters. Support should also be given according to her to the families of the missing.
The OPP states that resources have been available for three years for officers who are distressed at work and in their private lives. OPP Commissioner Vince Hawkes is due to speak to the press about it later this week.
Jocelyne Bennett is a general assignment reporter at Spruce Tribune. She has covered sports, entertainment and many other beats in her journalism career, and has lived in Hamilton for more than 6 years. Jocelyne has appeared periodically on national television shows and has been published in (among others) The National Post, Politico, The Atlantic, Harper’s, Wired.com, Vice and Salon.com.