RCMP officer remembered with walk to support mental health

Friends, family and supporters of an RCMP officer who took his own life two years ago gathered this weekend to raise money to support mental health in his memory.

The third annual Walk a Mile in His Shoes held events in Clarenville and St. John's on Saturday, inspired by Trevor O'Keefe, who died in 2017 after struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Event committee member Greg Williams said he wanted to honour the memory of O'Keefe, his best friend.

"He was generous beyond what we would consider someone to be generous, and his time was always giving and kind," he said.

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"For us to come out and raise money for awareness and in his memory is kind of a continuation of things he did in his life, and a way for us to move forward and get over the loss that everyone feels as well."

The money raised by the walks will go toward mental health charities and organizations.

"Trevor was a pretty dynamic person himself, and he had lots of friends in the community," said Williams.

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"If you met him, he was that type of person that you just wanted to be around. So the fact that people come out and support his cause and his memory is not surprising at all."

Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Chief Joe Boland said the event is important because O'Keefe's situation was not unique among first responders.

"These are tough, tough jobs, tough occupations, and we need to keep talking about it," Boland said.

"We need to make sure that we're supporting first responders, especially police officers, in my case."

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Boland said since O'Keefe's death, he's seen community organizations connecting and working together more.

"There's a much greater recognition that these are tough jobs, and we shouldn't expect people to come to work and the things that we ask them to see and do, it's just not natural," he said.

"While we can control many things, some of the stuff that our officers have to respond to we can't control, and so we've got to try to better prepare them for what they're going to have to see, do and be involved with, and afterwards make sure that we're there to support them after the event."

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Darrell Morrissey, O'Keefe's cousin, said first responders are a large community with physical and mental challenges.

"Sometimes the public don't realize how much stuff we're actually physically and mentally under at work, and when you take it at home," he said.

"There is resources there, but a lot of times, unfortunately, some people don't avail of those resources. Either they think it's something they can't do themselves or, for talking-wise, it's hard to do sometimes at home ore work."

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