Remember to take care of your mental health first, before donning the uniform to serve and protect others.
Educator Dilnasz Garda passed on that poignant message to the new recruits at the September 29 graduation ceremony at the Toronto Police College.
Her brother, 51 Division Constable Darius Garda, who struggled with his mental health, committed suicide last February.
Chief Mark Saunders invited Garda to speak at the graduation ceremony.
She encouraged the rookies to remember and trust the training they received in preparation for their new career.
“Support is all around you,” she told them. “Just ask. Be proactive about your mental health and find healthy ways of releasing your on-the-job stress. Your family and colleagues are counting on you and are there to assist you if you need assistance.”
Support is all around you
Garda said her family was devastated after her brother’s death.
She thanked Toronto Police for rallying around them and sharing in their grief and mourning. Shortly after his death, hundreds of officers gathered at Trinity United Church to remember the well-liked 51 Division officer.
“The support was overwhelming and I realized that when an officer falls, an entire group of men and women fall as well.”
She reassured the graduates that the Service is there for them in their time of need.
“You have now gained an instant family in your fellow officers,” said Garda. “You will share an unspoken bond that will last beyond your career.”
Garda told the recruits’ relatives that they too have now become part of the Toronto Police family.
“When you stay up at night worrying, just know that you are not alone,” she said. “You are part of a big family comprised of significant others, siblings and parents who share the same unspoken concerns. We are now all family.”
A week before the graduation ceremony, Garda shared Darius' story with the recruits.
“The graduating class showed great courage when they cried with me and shared my pain over the loss of my dear brother,” she said. “They showed great courage when they reflected on my story and took my key messages to heart in making their pledges to their loved ones. It was a pledge that asked them to describe who they are and what they value and a promise to maintain their identity and values throughout their career. I have asked that they share their written pledges with their family and my hope is that it’s kept in a safe place.”
The Service has two psychologists, an Employee Family Assistance Plan as well as Critical Incident Response Teams that debrief with Service members after a traumatic incident to ensure they are offered any support they require.
I know people are afraid to speak about issues like this, so this was a great way to connect with us
Constable Nicole Mangos, the class valedictorian, said the presentation was very powerful.
“I know people are afraid to speak about issues like this, so this was a great way to connect with us,” she said. “I thought it was very brave on her part to come and speak to us. It had an impact on me and the entire class. She was just so real and I was touched to the point that I shed some tears.”
Mangos said she shared her pledge with her family who she’s very close with before putting it away for safekeeping.