09/28/2014 08:52 EDT | Updated 11/28/2014 05:59 EST

Police Officers Need Help With Mental Health Issues Too

As I sit around my dining room table eating my dinner and doing my homework I have learned there will be one less person sitting at the dining room table of an Ottawa-area family. The Ottawa Citizen is reporting Staff Sgt. Kal Ghadban of the Ottawa Police Service has taken his own life at Ottawa Police Headquarters. Sgt. Ghadban's death happened on the same day as police from across Canada remembered their fallen brothers and sisters.

As a relatively new Hamiltonian, I am reminded of Hamilton Police officer Ian Matthews who also died by suicide less than a year.

While I may be a mental health advocate I am by no means even close to being an expert on the mental health challenges that our first responders (firefighters, police officers, and paramedics) face on the job. What I do know is that we are in a crisis situation. The mental health challenges facing our first responders needs to be addressed and it needs to be addressed immediately. I cannot tolerate hearing of one more first responder taking their own life.

Police culture is unique and complex and something I don't know if I can properly address. However, I have a couple friends who have family members who are police officers. One friend told me about her dad (a newly-retired police officer). She said when his days at work were good the family heard all about them but when they were bad everybody sat around the TV or dining room table and were completely silent.

I was recently talking to a constable who told me he doesn't bring his work home with him because if he did it would drive him nuts (his words, not mine). I don't care how good you are at your job, I'd imagine you'd still be thinking about what happened at work to at least some degree and over the long term it must still affect you.

Police officers just like other first responders put their lives on the line every single day to serve and protect us. They absorb a lot and they put on a strong front for all of us. They are here for all of us when we are faced during the worst days of our lives. But I ask: Who is there for them when they're facing their worst days? Think about that and see if you can come up with an answer.

To the police officers reading this I have a message for you: You are strong. Getting help is not a sign of weakness: it is a sign of strength. Please do not suffer alone, just as you expect civilians to seek you out for help you yourselves must also get help and its OK to do so.

To police administration and all levels of government: Our officers need help now. It is unacceptable to allow our first responders to slip away at their own hands. If you don't step up and take action you too will have blood on your hands.

The lack of help for first responders is nothing short of an injustice and its time we all step up to the plate to do whatever we can. We simply cannot afford to lose another officer (or anybody for that matter) to suicide.

Heroes in life, not death


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