Suicide of Quebec provincial police officer a reminder of job’s mental toll

Shockwaves over Quebec police officer’s death by suicide
WATCH: Shockwaves over Quebec police officer's death by suicide

The suicide of a Quebec provincial police officer is sending shockwaves through police forces across the country and reminding people of the mental toll the job can take.

Sûreté du Québec officer Patrick Bigras was found dead at his home north of Montreal Friday.

According to reports, the 22-year veteran of the force was still struggling after being in the middle of a horrific case more than a decade ago.

Bigras and his partner were the first two officers on the scene of the Guy Turcotte murders in February, 2009. The cardiologist killed his two children, five-year-old Olivier, and three-year-old Anne-Sophie.

READ MORE: Guy Turcotte found guilty of second-degree murder in deaths of his kids

WATCH: Patrick Bigras, a Sûreté du Québec police officer, has died by suicide after a long struggle with the case of cardiologist Guy Turcotte.

Shockwaves over Quebec police officer’s death by suicide
Shockwaves over Quebec police officer’s death by suicide

He would tell investigators he was upset over the breakup of his marriage.

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In addition to finding the childrens’ bodies, it was Bigras who arrested Turcotte at the scene, after finding him hiding under a bed.

The officer was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress after the arrest, and was removed from duty for two and a half months.

But even a decade later, he was still having difficulty.

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Jurors with PTSD push for better mental health support during, after trials
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Tom Stamatakis, the president of the Canadian Police Association, says Bigras’ suicide is a reminder of the importance and challenge of making sure officers have the help they need coping with their sometimes horrific experiences.

“Even when we think we’re doing things correctly, and that we’re providing the right kind of support, sometimes it’s just not enough,” Stamatakis said.

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Psychologist Pierre Faubert says the public often takes for granted that officers can deal with what they see. Bigras’ death, however, shows that’s not the case.

“These are human beings, just like you and me,” says Faubert. “They have their wounds and vulnerabilities and emotions.”

READ MORE: Updates to workers’ compensation rules just the beginning for helping Nova Scotia’s first responders: NDP

Faubert says the Turcotte murders may have been a worst case scenario for Bigras. It was two children brutally murdered by their father.

“No one could digest an event like that, because it’s unthinkable,” says Faubert. “But sometimes the unthinkable happens, and it stays. It lingers.”

The mother of the two children posted an emotional note about Bigras on her Facebook account.

In it, Isabelle Gaston calls Bigras a collateral victim of the crime.

READ MORE: Turcotte’s ex-wife: ‘You broke my heart’

“And now another family will have pain, rage and senselessness. I would have liked to have taken him in my arms to say ‘it’s going to be alright’, but it’s too late.”

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Guy Turcotte was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. The judge ordered that he not be eligible for parole until he’s served 17 years.

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If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.

The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Depression Hurts and Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.