Calgary

Suicide of Calgary police officer puts focus on mental health and stress

The Calgary Police Service is mourning the death of one of its own through suicide, and talking about the services available to help its members.

'Police officers are human beings'; force highlights services available for coping with job stress

Supt. Nina Vaughan, of the CPS employee services division, talks to reporters following the suicide of a police officer. (CBC)

The Calgary Police Service is mourning the death of one of its own through suicide, and talking about the services available to help its members. 

"I think it's really important to say that police officers are human beings and we come with all the frailties that human beings come with," said Nina Vaughan, the superintendent of the employee services division.

 "We suffer stress in our family life and in our work life the same as every other citizen does."

She was speaking at a news conference organized after a member of the Calgary Police Service took her own life over the weekend.

Vaughan said there are additional stresses that come with policing and that's why the service offers a host of programs for its members, from the formal to the informal. 

"I had no idea I would see the things that I've seen when I joined. I just didn't have any idea that that's what I would see," she said.

"I think that people don't really know when you join policing, the degree to which you'll be impacted by the things that we see every day and the sort of cumulative effect of that."

Reducing the stigma

Every employee has been through training to be able to detect stresses in co-workers and feel comfortable talking about mental health, which Vaughan hopes has removed, or at least reduced, the stigma around mental health. 

"It's easier to have a conversation about it when everyone's talking the same way and when everybody recognizes the signs of stress and is trained in the signs of stress for their peer group, so we can look out for each other and we can look out for our employees," said Vaughan.

She said it's "relatively rare" for a member of the service to take their own life, with four suicides in the past 25 years. 

Police are not discussing the particulars of this case or whether it had anything to do with stress from work, and Vaughan said she doesn't know enough about it to say whether things could have been done differently. 

With files from Kate Adach

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