Laurence Demers-Rivard: the one who watches over the mental health of SQ police officers

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Laurence Demers-Rivard : the one who watches over the mental health of SQ police officers

Suicide Prevention Week takes place from February 5th to 11th

Laurence Demers-Rivard is the head of the Occupational Health and Prevention Division at the Sûreté du Québec.

Talking about mental health has long been taboo in the police ranks. Today, Mental Health Prevention Officer Laurence Demers-Rivard reports a 180 degree turn in police culture, especially since the arrival of Johanne Beausoleil as Director General to the Sûreté du Québec (SQ).

Four years ago, questions were asked about available help resources and people knew little about the answers. Now everyone knows the answers and their responsibilities towards their colleagues who show signs of mental distress, launches Laurence Demers-Rivard, head of the Occupational Health and Prevention Division at the SQ.

SQ spokesperson Geneviève Bruneau (left) with the head of the Occupational Health and Prevention Division, Laurence Demers-Rivard (right)

Barely 10 years ago, the SQ relied on only one prevention worker to deal with psychological assistance programs.

Absenteeism rate at the SQ following a psychological diagnosis

2019: 23.1%

2020: 21.8%

2021: 24.8%

2022: 25.1%

Source : Sûreté du Québec

The person who was alone before was just doing the Employee Assistance Program and “putting out the lights” in response to what was reported to her, explains Ms. Demers-Rivard.

Today, it's over a dozen workers in mental health who are hired, and there is no shortage of work in the various MRCs served by the SQ.

The team that has grown the most since I took over is really the psychological prevention workers. In 2017, we were therefore able to launch a suicide prevention committee. And in 2021, the Sentinels program was able to train nearly 200 people to detect signs of psychological distress among their colleagues at the SQ, added the head of mental health prevention.

The Sentinels program came at a good time after four SQ police officers committed suicide in 2019 alone.

The aid program prompted French police services to come to SQ headquarters in Montreal to implement a program similar to that of Sentinelles, says Ms. Demers-Rivard, because the annual rate of suicide among gendarmes in France is particularly worrying.

Laurence Demers-Rivard does not hesitate to recall the shock wave caused by the suicide of a police officer in the posts of the MRCs of Quebec. Indeed, the approximately 5842 police officers and 2089 civilian employees alone form a community.

When such a tragedy happens, we have what is called in the prevention of suicide the "postvention". That is to say that we will take the lead with the teams to determine all those who are affected by the situation. We make sure that there is a follow-up not only in the following days, but also in the following weeks, mentions Laurence Demers-Rivard.

In 2019, 293 police officers were supported by the psychological prevention team at the SQ. Three years later, in 2022, that number had doubled to 608.

It proves to me that the prevention messages that we hammered home are bringing results. According to Mental Health Index surveys among first responders, we could see an improvement from 2019 to 2022. There is no more distress, but taboos are broken and people take care of themselves. #x27; them by going for help, says the civilian executive with conviction.

The Laurence Demers-Rivard's team mentions that in 2019, 293 police officers obtained the services of the psychological prevention team. In 2022, there were 608.

We know that the police have to intervene in people's distress situations. And sometimes, to admit that we live ourselves a situation that we see in others is never easy. What we are trying to do is to demonstrate that going for help is not a weakness, but a strength to get better later.< /p>

“What we want is to democratize the search for help. We want going to see a psychologist to become as commonplace as going to see your doctor for your annual check-up. We want to work in prevention in order to prevent our members from stretching the elastic to the end. »

— Laurence Demers-Rivard, head of the Occupational Health and Prevention Division at the SQ

The director general of the SQ, Johanne Beausoleil, has directed that the provincial police force be a leader in mental health prevention.

The offer of psychological support will therefore increase over the next few years, both for police officers and civilian employees.

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