Mental health class now part of training for Halifax police officers

Halifax Regional Police officers will now take a class to better deal with mental health issues. As Global’s Steve Silva reports, the message is coming from the top down.

Every Halifax Regional Police officer will have to take a four-hour mental health class by the end of May as part of training.

The aim is to make it easier for members to talk about mental health issues.

“From a policing point of view, I think a lot has to do with the fact we’re in a male-dominated culture, unfortunately, and we have to change that mindset from being a ‘suck it up, buttercup’-type mentality,” said Chief Jean-Michel Blais, who has already taken the training.

Part of the class will teach officers how to rate their emotions based on a colour scale; green signifies a better state of mind, and red means the opposite.

It’s a simple concept for a not-so-simple issue.

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Blais said post-traumatic stress disorder is a personal daily struggle.

When asked why he speaks about it publicly, he said, “Because my entourage, the people with whom I work here in close proximity, knew about it, and it’s a question of leadership, in my mind.”

Blais deals with the condition, in part, by working out.

“Skulking around me at all times is that depression, and so I keep myself busy. I keep myself physically moving so as to keep that depression at bay,” he said.

PTSD is a huge deal. There’s so much stigma with it so not everybody is able to go and get the help that they need,” said Nicole Monaghan, an organizer of the Walk for PTSD.

The annual event is being held on June 11. The money raised goes to helping military members and first responders suffering from the condition.

One goal is to pressure the provincial government to change PTSD legislation.

“Most [workers’] comp and places like that try to make [PTSD] a single event that’s caused it. For a lot of the first responders and military personnel, it’s a cumulative thing, so it’s all the different events that add up,” said Monaghan.
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