By: Matt Romeral
In Canada, “Mental Health Week” is celebrated in May – this has been the case for the last 66 years. The 2019 version ran from the sixth to the 12th. The Canada Mental Health Association (CMHA) spearheads this vital campaign to promote mental health awareness. In Canada, one in five people experience a form of mental illness in any given year. Twenty percent is a significant number and is definitely not negligible.
In a busy city like Toronto, police respond to more than a million radio calls every year. A significant percentage of these calls involve “emotionally-disturbed” persons. Police in the province of Ontario receive training to deal with persons considered to be “emotionally-disturbed”. Many of these individuals are known to us. Some of them have resorted to suicide as an “escape”. There is a unit within the Toronto Police Service that is dedicated to dealing with these individuals. Certain individuals always ask to speak to a member of the Mobile Crisis Intervention Team (or MCIT). This group of police officers undergo specific training that is meant for individuals in crisis. A mobile CIT unit is usually comprised of a police officer and a nurse.
Front-line policing offers many “perks” and an equal or higher number of challenges. These challenges include but are not limited to constant exposure to highly stressful situations. Stressful situations vary; it may be a dynamic one such as an active shooter, a person who is threatening to jump from a balcony or something that involves a young child as a victim. Incidents such as the ones previously cited leave an indelible mark in victims’ minds. In my opinion, police officers (and their respective families at times) are victims, too.
You may have heard of post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. A police officer is, in my humble opinion, more prone to getting it than an average person. A police officer – considered to have an A-type or Alpha personality – is less likely to open up or admit to suffer from a mental or emotional breakdown. And, based on history and statistics, the suicide rate is higher among police as compared with the general public. I would rather not elaborate on this as I am, in no way, a subject matter expert.
I have been approached countless times by kababayans about the hiring process. Even on my days-off, I have answered a call, a text message or voice mail about “the hiring process and the life”. What does it take to be a police officer? What is it like? Truth is, a career in policing is a VERY rewarding BUT challenging one.
I decided to write this article with one thing in mind – to guide my kababayans who are aspiring police officers to start on the right track. In my opinion, an applicant must not only be physically-ready but mentally as well. One important piece of advice to my kababayans or anyone aspiring to be a police officer – keep the life that you have prior to committing to “To Serve and Protect” the community. Keep your non-police friends, hobbies, interests – anything. If you do not have a hobby or past-time, start one; it will, after all, keep you grounded.
If you have a general question about how to become a police officer in Toronto or Ontario, feel free to send an e-mail (shown below). Good luck!
The contributing writer is a proud Filipino and an 11-year veteran of the Toronto Police Service, assigned to 32 Division in North York. An avid cook, photographer, artist, writer and entrepreneur. Questions or comments? Please send an e-mail to [email protected].
by Police Constable Matt Romeral
Follow me on Social Media: Facebook @Constable Matt Romeral, Twitter and Instagram: @OfficerRomeral.