Statement by Chair Andy Pringle on behalf of the Toronto Police Services Board

Statement by Chair Andy Pringle on behalf of the Toronto Police Services Board
Thursday June 27, 2019

On behalf of the Toronto Police Services Board, I would like to take this opportunity to recognize today, June 27, as the first-ever PTSD Awareness Day named earlier this year by the Government of Ontario.

As we know, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, has a significant and powerful impact on first responders.  Policing is a unique and extremely intense career, with our Service Members, both uniform and civilian, regularly experiencing and witnessing situations involving trauma and tragedy. This can often manifest in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, among other conditions.  Indeed, even those who are not direct witnesses to traumatic situations may experience symptoms of PTSD.

As the employer, it is imperative that we as a Board acknowledge the importance of talking about and dealing with PTSD, of incorporating these conversations into our culture, and of removing any shame or stigma.  It is part of our responsibility as well as our commitment to our employees, our Members.

The Board also recognizes that in order to fully and meaningfully support our Members, we need to give them comprehensive and ongoing support, along with the tools and resources they need to most effectively deal with these significant workplace and personal challenges.  We have endeavoured to boost our supports in this area in a variety of ways, including an increase in psychological and counselling services to an annual cap of $5000 per person, which places the Toronto Police Service among the top Fortune 500 companies in the provision of these benefits, a testament to the value we place on supports in this critical area.

The Board also supports the innovative program Toronto Beyond the Blue, which serves the spouses and families of Service Members, to offer a community of support to provide Members with the tools to navigate through the many challenges they face.

The Board is proud of the Service’s proactive and comprehensive approach to mental health and wellness in the workplace.  Psychological Services conducts annual wellness visits for Members and, increasingly, we are seeing Members reaching out to arrange a consultation on their own.  The culture is shifting and this is a tremendous change.

Psychologists screen new constable candidates for resilience and emotional health and support our new officers in providing positive coping strategies.  In addition, the Road to Mental Readiness, which aims to increase awareness of mental health issues, including PTSD, while reducing stigma, has now been delivered across the Service.  Lastly, Critical Incident Response Team members are available to provide peer support and post-incident intervention to our Members, recognizing the tremendous impact some of these incidents can make.

On behalf of the Board, on this first-ever PTSD Awareness Day, I want to pledge our ongoing commitment to recognizing the impact of PTSD, and to working in partnership with the Service to prevent it, while arming our Members with all the tools they need to deal with it as effectively as possible.