I was very touched to hear police widow Heidi Rogers speak at the conference on mental health within the policing community I attended in Mississauga, Ont. on February 18 and 19, 2015.
Her late husband was Segeant Richard “Bucky” Rogers, a 24-year-member of the Toronto Police Service and only eight short months ago (July 7, 2014) he committed suicide, barely one year after coming forward to his supervisors that he had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), severe depression and anxiety. He'd been struggling with his mental health for 12 years.
She explained to the audience of 220 people; the majority of whom were executive level police administration or program leaders in the mental health, research and policing communities from across Canada, that she believes current systems for police officers in need of mental health support are virtually non-existence and failed her husband.
Heidi Rogers described herself has being thrown into the media spotlight since she decided to speak out about negative police culture around mental illness. She added that since her husband's suicide, she's lost track of how many people have reached out to her from police agencies across the province of Ontario, some with as few as 10 members to others, like the Toronto Police Service, with as many as 7000 members.
What she said next, stunned me. She added, “Every person who has reached out to me finds the culture of stigmatizing those with mental health issues as bad or worse than the (mental health) issues themselves.”
As that statement sinks in further, a shiver tingles up and down my spine.
And when I started researching to write this blog post, I got another shiver. I found that Heidi Rogers had come to see us on her late husband's birthday (February 19, 1969) - the first one she's been without him. He would have been 46 years old.
For your birthday, Bucky, please know we are working on it.