'Hoping today isn't the day that I'd die': An Ottawa police officer says the culture around mental illness on the job needs to change
Funeral arrangements for an Ottawa police officer who died by suicide inside police headquarters are expected to be announced on Tuesday.
Interim Police Chief Steve Bell says the police service is working with Constable Thomas Roberts’ wife and family to finalize arrangements.
Roberts was found dead inside Ottawa Police Elgin Street headquarters on Friday. His death, nearly five years to the day that Staff Sergeant Kal Ghadban died by suicide also inside Ottawa Police headquarters.
“It’s clear we have more work to do,” Bell told CTV News, “we have to make sure that we’re working with our members to get them into the programs we provide.”
At least one officer tells CTV News there is a sufficient amount of support offered to officers by the Ottawa Police Service to deal with mental health issues, but there is still unwillingness for officers to talk about their struggles.
“What my colleagues would think of me, that was my biggest fear,” says Constable Jon Hall.
Hall, part of the services traffic enforcement team, says he had been struggling with depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for years, but was too embarrassed to come forward. He wasn’t afraid of what it would for his career, but instead he was worried about what his colleagues would think of him.
“It was a difficult step for me to acknowledge how I was feeling,” says Hall,
“That shattered image of what I thought it was like to be a man, what it was like to be a cop, a husband, a father. It was very difficult for me to take those first steps and see the doctor.”
Hall says it was a conversation he had with a colleague in 2016 that changed everything. The fellow officer spoke about his own struggles; it gave Hall the courage to get help.
“That conversation I had with my colleague probably saved my life.”
Now, three years later, Hall is feeling good. His days are up and down but he shares his story anyway he can. On social media he is known as The Bearded Cop, and he speaks about mental illness and the need to end the stigma and start the conversation.
“It doesn’t matter if you are a police officer, a first responder somewhere else or an office worker, everyone can suffer from mental health issues. Recognizing it is difficult enough but talking about it is very important and it’s a big obstacle especially if you have that stigma.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis, here are some resources that are available.
Crisis Services Canada (1-833-456-4566 or text 45645), Centre for Suicide Prevention (1-833-456-4566) or Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868) offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.
If you need immediate assistance call 911 or go to the nearest hospital.