Prince Albert police implement 'structured' and 'consistent' mental health program for staff

Art psychotherapist and counsellor Nicola Sherwin-Roller (left) and social worker Sherry LaFaver are part of the Prince Albert Police Service's new wellness strategy. (Submitted)

The Prince Albert Police Service has implemented a mental health support program in hopes of helping members cope with traumatic events.

The service’s new “wellness strategy” began in July. It includes an art psychotherapist and counsellor, social worker, support dog, a series of speakers and nutrition and fitness programming.

Citing a high number of calls compared to other centres in the province, Chief Jon Bergen said members experience many traumatic incidents requiring both preventative and after care.

“They don’t have to be robotic and not human in what they deal with. There is a human response that we need to be aware of,” he said.

“Some of those calls for service have included scenes of violence that would weigh on everybody, and a police officer is part of our community as well.”

Bergen said the police service has always offered support to staff following specific traumatic calls – but hopes this new strategy offers help in a more efficient way.

“It’s different in that it’s structured and it’s consistent,” he said.

The program is budgeted at $100,000 and will be reassessed at the end of the year, according to a news release.

Bergen said keeping all staff healthy, not just police officers, is worth the investment.

“If one member is away for an extended period of time, that could very easily cost us $100,000 in salary where we don’t have somebody here serving the community,” said Bergen.

The wellness strategy is in addition to supports already in place, such as online and peer-to-peer programming.