Brad McKay believes that peer support is very important for police service.
McKay and his partner Syd Gravel are visiting the North Bay Police Service this week. They are both independent members of the Mood Disorder Society of Canada and Badge of Life Canada.
McKay says he and Gravel bring with them more than 60 years of police experience. He believes co-workers are the best support system for police officers.
“We find that in any organization your people are your most valuable asset and it is important to take care of your people as much as possible and in a policing culture trust is sometimes a difficult challenge so we find that first responders and police officers most often trust their own when they are having difficulties - when you are having a mental health challenge and the truth is that taking care of your mental health is more of a strength than a weakness but sometimes the opposite is the case in terms of stigma of mental health in these organizations,” explained McKay who attended the North Bay Police Services Board meeting along with Gravel, on Wednesday morning.
Deputy Chief Scott Tod coordinated these peer support meetings. In 2017 the local police service adopted a new strategic plan and one priority was looking after employees and their wellness.
“Throughout the last two years we have worked on a number of things internally in regards to policy and procedures but what we have identified that we need work on is the practices as to how we look after our own people and one of the most important things any workplace can provide to its employees is some support from the people within the organization,” said Tod.
“So we call it peer support and what North Bay would like to do is set up a very effective peer support program led by the peers within the workplace and provided by the peers within the workplace and as we learned from our two guest speakers, peer support programs are probably the most important wellness components you can set up in any workplace.”
McKay and Gravel both travel across the country sharing their stories with first responders and police officers.
McKay says a lot has changed in the past 30 years. In the past, superiors turned a blind eye on mental health concerns in what McKay calls the “suck it up” generation.
“Now the resources are there,” said McKay.
“We know where to take people and we find the big void of people who are suffering and the resources can be filled with a very robust and structured peer support system.”