FRIEL SEEKS TO HIGHLIGHT MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES
Brantford Mayor Chris Friel is taking a six-month leave from the Brantford police services board to put the spotlight on post-traumatic stress disorder and mental health issues.
“I want to make sure that no one with mental health issues gets left behind or is stigmatized,” Friel said. “I want to make sure that there are avenues open to them to get the help they need when they’re ready to move forward.”
As mayor, Friel is a member of the board that oversees policing in the community.
He said he is stepping away from that role to enable him to speak freely about post-traumatic stress disorder and mental health issues both generally and in the workplace. If he had remained on the board, he said some people might assume that he is speaking only about the police service.
He said that both the city’s police service and the Brantford Police Association are progressive in dealing with PTSD and mental health issues. The city is also taking a progressive approach, he said.
City councillors approved the mayor’s leave from the police board at special council meeting Tuesday night. Councillors also voted to appoint Ward 2 Coun. John Utley to the board for six months.
Friel said he wants to make funding for mental health and PTSD services a major topic of discussion for the Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health.
He said that society must find ways to help people to deal with mental health issues, including through the Workers Safety Insurance Board.
Friel recalled his own struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder as mayor following a 2002 train derailment in the city.
The derailment occurred when the driver of a van struck a train stopped at the Stanley Street railway crossing. The van became lodged between two cars of a 69-car train and was dragged about a half-kilometre before hitting the Rawdon Street bridge and bursting into flames. The explosion caused the last eight cars of the train to roll down the embankment next to several homes. More than 100 people had to leave their homes following the derailment while authorities dealt with the problem.
Although he initially resisted getting help, Friel said he did seek counselling, which helped him deal with the PTSD and move forward.
Ward 3 Coun. Greg Martin, a professional firefighter, thanked Friel for raising the issue and speaking publicly about his struggles.
It’s important for people to recognize the impact stressful incidents can have, Martin said.