The Prince Albert Police Service has implemented a new wellness strategy aimed at providing more mental health supports for police members and staff. The program offers confidential support to police service employees, either on site at the police station or substation, or at a private office location in the city.
The new strategy was rolled out in July and is facilitated by Nicola Sherwin-Roller, a masters-level art psychotherapist and Certified Canadian Counsellor with extensive training in trauma and holistic health. Sherwin-Roller is also in the process of completing her certification in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and has operated her own private practice for the last 25 years.
Sherry LaFaver, a registered social worker with more than two decades of experience working with police members through the RCMP and other agencies, rounds out the team. LaFaver is the only facilitator working in Saskatchewan or Manitoba with a specialty in trauma-informed movement from the Boston Trauma Centre and is a Level 2 facilitator for iRest, a guided meditation program being utilized by first responders and those struggling with PTSD.
Sherwin-Roller has also brought in Mr. Blue, a four-year-old Labradoodle, to engage with police members and staff. Sherwin-Roller said the wellness strategy is another tool to support police members and staff in responding to traumatic incidents and preventing occupational stress injuries.
“This is not about coming in after trauma has happened,” she said. “This is about building capacity and awareness and working with members and staff in their everyday job responsibilities to support them and develop strategies that fit their unique needs.”
The wellness strategy was chosen in consultation with the Prince Albert Police Association and is being offered in addition to other supports already in place at the police service, including confidential online and peer-to-peer programming. Prince Albert Police Chief Jonathan Bergen said the health and wellness of members and staff is essential and having qualified individuals available in the workplace can be key to ensuring first responders are able to access the supports they want when they need it.
“The trauma, violence and serious issues that we encounter throughout our careers can impact both our professional and personal lives,” said Chief Bergen. “Having mental health strategists on site can not only provide additional supports for members and staff in their day-to-day roles, but also ensure more follow-up after traumatic incidents, and more proactive engagement and awareness.”
The wellness strategy is being implemented at a budgeted cost of $100,000 and will be re-assessed at the end of this year. Initiatives already underway as part of the strategy include an online speaker series with mental health advocates in the policing field and programming on the importance of nutrition and fitness as it relates to mental health.