Global News is looking at some of the issues that continue to come up concerning mental health and first responders. We’ll explore what’s being done to help first responders and what has changed over the decade.

A police union in a major Ontario city made a push this fall for better mental health supports for its front-line officers.

Hamilton Police Association (HPA) president Jaimi Bannon faced the city’s police board in October and called for an end to a stigma around “mental health illness” and requested the creation of a “fulsome wellness unit” staffed with members with lived policing experiences.


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“Members fear they will be seen as weak if the employer knows their struggle,” Bannon told Hamilton’s police services board.

“They fear for their career development positions and employment opportunities as well as promotions. They fear for being ostracized, gossiped and isolated.”


Hamilton Police Association president Jaimi Bannon during a presentation on member wellness during an Oct. 26, 2023 police services board meeting.


City of Hamilton

Bannon pointed to a highly touted reintegration program in Alberta, designed to assist first responders recovering from critical incidents, as an option.

Almost a decade old, the Edmonton Police Re-integration program has been recognized by the Canadian Association of the Chiefs of Police (CACP) as an “innovative and comprehensive” solution that fosters self-confidence in officers who are struggling.

It’s the type of support the HPA wants for its 1,200 workers with the Hamilton Police Service (HPS), replacing a current resolution process it says has “shortcomings.”

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Bannon made the ask amid “sources” revealing that some 15 of an estimated 28 psychological injury claims between 2019 and 2022 from her members submitting for compensation were challenged by the HPS.

“More than 50 per cent of the psychological claims of members of the 15 appeals, 12 have been concluded, and each of them the employer lost the appeal,” Bannon told the board.

HPS Chief Frank Bergen told Global News in an October interview that there was a spend of around $562,000 in legal services during that time but insists of 64 claims over that time, only eight have been challenged by their human resources branch.

Const. Andrew Leng believes the initiative is something to look into, considering he’s seeing changes in up-and-coming junior members who no longer appear to carry a traditional “suck it up” mentality when facing crisis on the job.

Leng, who once was off the job for half a year dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), also believes a great deal of work needs to be done in terms of how members injured at work are seen among peers and the public.

“You have to have a feeling of hope. You have to have a feeling of buy-in, you have to have a feeling of self-worth,” Leng submits.

“So some of the ways that an agency could address this is by training, learning opportunities and giving back to the membership.”

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The award-winning Edmonton police program has a pair of options: a short-term stream for members typically a part of a police shooting and a long-term stream for a wider range of incidents, like shootings, vehicle collisions or violent scenes.

A recent internal review revealed that 89 per cent of members in the short-term program reported being “satisfied or very satisfied,” while 100 per cent in the long-term version were “satisfied or very satisfied.”

The part of the Edmonton program that receives the most praise is its “person-driven” support team, which tailors therapy for each individual member.

HPS Chief Bergen, who says he has also seen generational change in the officers he oversees today, agrees there is a need for a culture that allows members to have conversations around front-line work.

“And that’s a culture we want to be part of,” Bergen said.

He agrees with his counterparts at the CACP that components of the Edmonton model are absolutely something the HPS should use, but not in its entirety.

Bergen suggests the service’s existing human resources department and how its therapies respond to struggling members is not yet obsolete.

“We’re also making sure that we can be honest and transparent, and that we have some Hamilton approaches to it that may not always align to what it is,” Bergen said.

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“I don’t think it’s one or the other, I think what we’ve been able to find is the best of both worlds.”

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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