By Pam Damoff
Tuesday, October 18, 2016 9:15 am ·  0 Comments
A substantial and unanimous report Healthy Minds, Safe Communities: Supporting our Public Safety Officers was tabled at Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security which provides a national strategy for operational stress injuries. The announcement was made this afternoon at First Station Number 9 on Neyagawa Blvd in Oakville and was attended by members of the first responder and public safety officer communities.
Along with other members of the all-party Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, I tabled the report Tuesday, October 4, 2016 in Ottawa.
I tabled this critical report during Mental Illness Awareness Week, calling on the government to use this report to develop a national strategy for supporting our public safety officers and first responders. We need to take care of them because they take care of us.
Public safety officers, first responders and those who work alongside them are susceptible to a host of mental health issues as a result of their jobs. The all-party committee of MPs called for a national strategy on PTSD and operational stress injuries and for the creation of a Canadian Institute for Public Safety Officer Health Research, an advisory council and an expert working group to develop policies and share research on prevention, screening, education, intervention and treatment.
The committee urges the creation of a Canadian Institute for Public Safety Officer and Health Research that would collect data, formulate a research strategy and acknowledge the unique challenges public safety officers and first responders face in their daily work.
Rob Oliphant, Liberal MP for Don Valley West and chair of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, said the report and its recommendations aren’t just about the mental health of public safety officer and first responders, but about the safety of the communities they serve.
“Communities will be safer if our public safety officers are healthier,” said Mr. Oliphant. “Part of the way we can keep our communities safe is ensuring that we have the best possible services and resources in our firefighters, in our paramedics, in our police officers, and in those who assist them.”
Witnesses told the committee that between 10 to 35 percent of public safety officers will develop PTSD – they are even more likely to suffer from depression and substance abuse. And sadly they are more far more likely to commit suicide. The committee wants the new institute to work with Statistics Canada on a national mental health prevalence survey measure the effect of repetitive trauma exposure.
Andy Glynn, Deputy Fire Chief of the Oakville Fire Department joined Ms. Damoff for the announcement this afternoon and thanked her and the committee for recognizing the importance of supporting mental health in first responders in the report.
“The traumatic events witnessed on a daily basis by our first responders and public safety officers can have very real, lasting and sometimes devastating effects on their lives and, consequently, the lives of their families and friends,” said Deputy Chief Glynn. “It is gratifying to have this report recognize and validate the mental health challenges we face and to know that our government is taking critical steps to support us in protecting our mental health and well-being.”
Committee member Larry Miller, Conservative MP for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, acknowledged that all-party support for the report is unusual and important. “I think the fact that the report is unanimous should help get it started,” said Mr. Miller. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called upon Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale to work with provinces and territories as well as Health Minister Jane Philpott on a co-ordinated national plan to address PTSD in emergency personnel. According to the report, while most public safety officers are provincial employees of fire, EMS or police services, it is still important for federal leadership and partnerships among all levels of government.
“We are calling on the government to use this report to develop a national strategy. We’ve asked the government to create a Canadian Institute for Public Safety Officer Health Research, an advisory council and an expert working group to develop policies and share research on a national level. We owe that to those who risk their lives every day to save ours.
The full report can be found on the Committee’s website.