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Edmonton police address mental health supports in wake of officer deaths: ‘Grief is universal’

Click to play video: 'Edmonton police provide ongoing support to officers following deaths of 2 members'
Edmonton police provide ongoing support to officers following deaths of 2 members
The Edmonton Police Service says it's been providing constant supports for its officers following the tragic deaths of constables Brett Ryan and Travis Jordan. As Nicole Stillger reports, the service says healing will take time and support from the community is helping – Mar 29, 2023

The past two weeks have been emotional and devastating for many in Alberta after two Edmonton Police Service officers were killed in the line of duty.

On Wednesday, two days after the funerals for constables Travis Jordan and Brett Ryan, the police force addressed the need for ongoing supports for officers and their families.

“So many things go through a police officer’s mind when the unthinkable happens,” said acting deputy chief Kellie Morgan during a news conference.

“Grief is universal and it is multifaceted. It’s normal to have feelings of anger, fear and helplessness,” she said.

“It’s normal to have survivor guilt, knowing it could have just as easily been you. And to question whether things could have been different if you had been there with them.”

Click to play video: 'Widows of slain Edmonton police officers share heartbreaking tributes to their husbands'
Widows of slain Edmonton police officers share heartbreaking tributes to their husbands

Edmonton police lost another officer to a shooting, Const. Daniel Woodall, in 2015 — the first EPS officer to be killed in 25 years.

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Morgan said it’s normal to feel triggered by the present events, given the relatively recent loss of Woodall.

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“Tragic, senseless deaths like these set off a wide array of emotions for all of us. We are all human,” Morgan said.

She also addressed how these kinds of killings affect other people in officers’ lives — including family — and touched on the resources EPS has available for family and friends of Edmonton police officers.

Fenne Nelson, manager of crisis services at the Canadian Mental Health Association, referred to them as “compounding grieving processes that can retrigger… those same emotions and compound them and make them even maybe tougher to deal with.”

He said grief is something that is so individual, and everyone needs to trust themselves to know what supports are best for them.

“First responders are really at a critical juncture in terms of the amount of vicarious trauma that they can already be experiencing just day-to-day in the work that they do… and because of the pandemic, the amount of vicarious trauma that they get exposed to has only increased exponentially,” Nelson said.

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“When you add events, like what happened to those two officers, it again kind of creates a really perfect storm in terms of really, really tough circumstances to be coping with.”

Click to play video: 'Thousands of officers from across Canada honour slain Edmonton police officers at regimental funeral'
Thousands of officers from across Canada honour slain Edmonton police officers at regimental funeral

The EPS West Division psychologist was at the headquarters within five hours of the fatal shootings, Morgan said, and psychologists remained available and in house at all branches in the city.

Each division had additional supports, including chaplain and re-integration supports, which meet individuals where they are at with healing their trauma, she explained.

Morgan spoke on behalf of all officers in thanking the community for the support and grace they have received in the past weeks.

Edmontonians were asked to continue to be understanding of the effects these deaths have had on police officers.

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EPS estimated that about 3,500 people, including EPS officers and first responders from across the city, marched in Monday’s funeral procession for Ryan and Jordan; and about 10,000 people attended the service at Roger’s Place.

The EPS and the Edmonton Police Association will send two members each to the upcoming funeral of Quebec provincial police officer Sgt. Marueen Breau, who was killed in the line of duty in Louiseville, Que. on Monday.

While there is internal support for EPS and EPA members, as well as for their families, Nelson recommended additional supports for first responders, including Osi-Can and the CAMH distress line, which can be accessed at 780-482-HELP (4357).

— With files from Nicole Stillger, Global News

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