British Columbia

Saanich police undergo mandatory training for mental health support and building resilience

Saanich police are making it a priority to open the lines of communication around trauma. Employees recently completed mandatory mental health support training.

Officers started the program in October and completed it this week

Police face challenging situations on a daily basis from crash scenes to crime scenes. (GP Mendoza/CBC)

Police on Vancouver Island are making it a priority to open the lines of communication around trauma by bringing in mandatory mental health support training. 

The Saanich Police Department partnered with Wounded Warriors, a national charity that offers support and trauma training and with researchers from the University of Victoria for an unprecedented resilience training program. 

About 250 officers finished the training program this week, which they had started in October.

"The program is aimed at helping first responders manage traumatic experiences and giving  them the tools to prepare for exposure to such events," said Markus Anastasiades, a spokesperson with Saanich police. 

He said the training helps break down some of the barriers around discussing mental health, as well as teaching staff how to support one another and ask for help. 

"Not all of policing  is traumatic or confrontation but, of course, officers do go through these circumstances," he told Gregor Craigie, the host of CBC's On The Island.

"But [having training sessions] really opens up communication."

Open lines of communication are key to improving resilience to trauma, which police face on a daily basis from car crashes to crime scenes. 

"This is just one step toward our department being committed to the health and wellness of our staff," Anastasiades said. 

The department initially brought in training for mental health awareness in 2016 and this latest program builds on those skills, he said. 

Saanich police are the first in B.C. to partner with this particular charity for trauma resiliency training but providing mental health training and raising awareness in the workplace is an on-going conversation among first responders both across the province and the country. 

"The culture has changed and certainly not just in our department alone," he said.

 "Now, we have these resources that we didn't have before and it's really just another tool in our kit to forge forward."

With files from On The Island