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The Inside Story: Board chair wants Toronto police to take lead in mental health

Last Updated Jul 3, 2015 at 11:21 am EDT

The chair of the civilian body that oversees the Toronto Police Service wants the force to become a national leader in addressing the mental health of the city’s officers.

In a report called Mental Health in the Workplace, Alok Mukherjee recommends the Toronto Police Services Board adopt a set of mental health guidelines for the force — and create a committee to make sure it’s implemented.

“Over the years, I have met surviving members of families of our employees who took their lives due to mental illness,” Mukherjee said in his report.

“They have shared with me accounts of receiving inadequate and insensitive treatment in their time of grief and need.”

The guidelines, tools and resources in the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace help identify those parts of a job that could hurt an employee’s mental health and either get rid of or control them.

“I can say with considerable confidence that the support systems and processes we have in place now constitute a significant advance from the way things were,” Mukherjee said.

“Nevertheless, there is a continuing need to identify what issues exist in terms of workplace attitudes towards people with mental illness, examine the effectiveness of programs that are in place, and consider what further measures we should take.”

The development follows a CityNews investigation into the suicides of two Toronto police officers — Sgt. Richard “Bucky” Rogers and Const. Clint Cibulis — earlier this year.

Rogers’s widow Heidi said she’s “cautiously optimistic” about the new development.

She said her husband was bullied and humiliated after trying to get help for severe stress, anxiety and panic attacks. In his suicide note, he blamed the Toronto Police Service for his death.

“I want to be on the committee,” Heidi Rogers said.

“The people that [Mukherjee] has suggested be on the committee are the ones that have a stake in saying everything’s OK and we’re doing everything correctly.

“In my particular case, these are the people that let my husband down … The whole goal is to see that this doesn’t happen again.”

The board will vote on the report next Thursday.