Belleville resident, mother of three and widow, Sarah Routhier, didn’t think her Facebook video of her children opening their Blue Line Bear’s would garner so much attention.
The bears were made by a non-profit organization in the United States that make children of fallen police officer’s teddy bears out of their late parent’s uniform.
In this case, Routhier had three bears made for her children to remember their father, Sgt. Sylvain Routhier.
“It’ll be a keepsake and a memory that my kids will always have of their dad. It’s something so unbelievably special for the kids to have,” Routhier told Global News.
Sylvain Routhier was a 13-year member of the OPP working in the tactics and rescue unit. On July 31, 2018, he took his own life. He was 37.
“The day I found out that he had passed away… my whole entire future went black,” explained Routhier.
Routhier says her husband was one of nine police officers in Ontario that committed suicide in 2018.
This spurred the chief coroner to launch an investigation — Routhier’s family was among those interviewed.
A report issued last week outlined 14 recommendations on how mental health programs and supports can become more readily available for first responders and their families.
“I was the first person he came to when he started to struggle and have issues and I didn’t know where to turn. I knew to take him to the hospital, but I didn’t know about what other resources were available,” said Routhier.
The mother of three young children — Jacob, 12, Nicholas, 10, and Emily, 7 — says she’ll continue to be an advocate for mental health in first responders and speak out about her family’s tragedy in the hopes it doesn’t happen to someone else.
“I didn’t think it was at the point where he was contemplating suicide. That’s what’s so scary about it. Because of the stigma and because he didn’t really want to tell me what was going on — one day he was gone.”
As for the teddy bears, Routhier says she thinks they’ll be a source of pride and comfort for her children as they grow and begin to fully understand the gravity of their loss.