Edmonton police union president steps down to focus on mental health

File: Michael Elliott, the president of the Edmonton Police Association pictured n Jan. 3, 2019. Global News

The head of the Edmonton Police Association (EPA) is leaving his position with the union, saying his mental health needs his full attention at the moment.

Staff Sgt. Michael Elliott said he’s leaving halfway through his second term as president and called his decision “bittersweet and emotional.” Elliott was elected into the EPA back in 2017.

“To me, I’ve dedicated the majority of my career to helping the members and promoting police and what we do with the community,” he told 630 CHED.

“Knowing that I’m taking a step back, I know I’m making the right decision, but it’s still difficult because that’s all I really know in policing.”

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The departure has come as a shock to some; however, Elliott said he thought about leaving the police union about a year ago but powered through for as long as he could due to the help from seeing a counsellor.

Over time, he’s had conversations with fellow officers and regular citizens, some of whom expressed suicidal thoughts. These experiences affected his own overall mental health, he said. He eventually had to ask himself a tough question: “If I’m not 100 per cent healthy, how can I help somebody else?”

“It’s almost like the analogy of (being on) a plane. If something happened to the plane and the oxygen mask goes down, you need to put your mask on first, because if not, you may not be there to help everyone.”

Though he’s only been part of the union executive for close to six years, he’s been a member of the EPA for 17.

One thing Elliott points to as an achievement within his time on the board, though he also credits how social norms have shifted too, is how more members — including himself now — have taken their mental health more seriously.

“I do believe that more members are taking time for themselves and putting their health first and foremost over their profession and over their careers,” Elliott said.

“If I can help one person not fall down that rabbit hole and harm themselves. That’s a success in my eyes.”

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“I hope I can leave knowing that the members are better off mentally than they were like five or six years ago and they’re better prepared to take care of themselves.”

He estimates whoever will take over the position will be announced in early January.

with files from James Dunn, 630 CHED

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