The Ottawa Police Service is set to post two full-time positions to support the mental health of its officers in response to high rates of work-related stress amongst first responders. 

Ottawa Police Association president Matt Skof said the need for such positions was recognized following a 2012 Ontario ombudsman report calling for an end to the "persistent stigma" against stress injuries. 

The value of that extra support was made clear this morning, after an RCMP officer walked into a police building in downtown Ottawa and shot himself. 

Matt Skof Ottawa Police Association

Matt Skof is the head of the Ottawa Police Association. (CBC)

"On a day like this, it's always very difficult," Skof said. "We consider ourselves to be a family concept around this. We take this very much to heart."

RCMP Const. Jean-Pascal Nolin, who died in hospital, is one of three officers who have taken their own lives in a police building in the capital region in less than two years.

Ottawa Staff Sgt. Kal Ghadban took his own life at police headquarters in the city's downtown in September 2014.

In July 2014, a young MRC des Collines police officer took his own life in his workplace in Wakefield, Que.

Skof said Nolin's death is felt in policing communities across the country.

'Not clinical positions'

Skof said the Ottawa Police Association started looking into "issues around peer support" following the 2012 Ontario ombudsman report that made 34 recommendations on how to provide better support to officers. 

Two coordinator positions, one for peer support and one for resiliency training, have been approved and will be "hopefully posted in the next couple of months," Skof said. 

He said the positions will be staffed internally by police officers, as is the practice in forces like Edmonton, Calgary, Peel and York.

"These are not clinical positions," he said.

The positions are "necessary," based on rates of post-traumatic stress disorder and partial post-traumatic stress disorder among first responders, Skof added.

"It's an issue," he said. "One of the things were very key on is not just waiting for a critical moment where somebody's already developed PTSD or even partial PTSD, but looking at it from the front end, the proactive side of developing resiliency."


Need help?

Here are a few local resources available.

Ottawa Distress Centre line: 613-238-3311.
Mental Health Crisis Line: (Ages 16 and up) 613-722-6914.
Crisis Line for Eastern Ontario: 1-877-377-7775