Thunder Bay Police work to help officers cope with job trauma
A Thunder Bay Police officer has a new beat to cover.
Constable Jeremy Pearson is the new critical incident and peer support coordinator for the force. His duty will be to help look after the mental health of his colleagues, and help them cope with traumatic events.
Pearson, who has been on the force for a decade, said he has personally dealt with some very stressful and serious incidents.
"I was involved at a very early stage in my career in a police shooting, which was of course an eye opener for me as to how traumatic things can be in relation to this job," he explained.
A strong support network and positive coping skills helped him deal with the shooting incident, he said.
The first step in his new role will be to research mental health programs offered by other first responders and to learn from their experience. Officers will also be asked what they'd like to see in a program.
In addition, Pearson will work with another officer and a clinical psychologist to teach officers to assess their own mental health.
The program is necessary because officers respond to serious incidents like violent assaults and car accidents on a daily basis, he said.
"And of course there's the chronic stress of dealing with people on their worst day, because it's not as though people call the police on happy occasions," he said.
"There's such a thing as compassion fatigue, " Pearson said.
Pearson said addressing the mental health needs of first responders is a trend across emergency services.
"I think our department recognized that need and felt that it was important that we have a program in place for the benefit of our employees," he said.
He added the new program will also provide peer support and referrals to those struggling with the effects of stress and trauma.