march, 2020

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Mental Health First Aid Course

Mental Health First Aid Canada (MHFA) is a comprehensive program of the Mental Health Commission of Canada that gives people the skills to provide that early intervention that is so important in recovery. It is the help provided to a person developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. Just as physical first aid is administered to an injured person before medical treatment can be obtained, MHFA is given until appropriate treatment is found or until the crisis is resolved. “The course doesn’t train people to diagnose mental illness or be a therapist or counselor,” says Debbie Bodkin. “It provides the first aider with actions to guide a person in need to appropriate professional help when a problem first arises. We know the sooner a person with a mental health problem gets help, the better their chances of recovery.” More information about mental health first aid and dates and locations of upcoming courses across Canada can be found at


Global Citizenship

Debbie served her community as a Police Officer for 24 years and thought she was doing her part to make the world a better place. Then her Police Service seconded her to Kosovo to work as a Scenes of Crimes Officer. Suddenly Debbie realized there was a lot more that she should be doing outside the safe and wealthy country of Canada. This resulted in three more overseas missions in Chad, Sudan and Rwanda where she worked with victims and witnesses of Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide. What she experienced changed her profoundly and led her to speak out, to convince others that as human beings we all have a responsibility to do our part, in some way, to improve our world and the lives of those less fortunate.

Mental Health in the First Responder World

Through her career in policing, Debbie thought she had mastered the art of being tough and keeping it together. She had gained the respect of her colleagues and had withstood heart breaking case details while investigating sexual assaults, homicides and war crimes. She thought she was quite capable of handling the worst her career could throw her way, but, on a couple of occasions she had some trouble holding it all in and her carefully monitored tough shell crumbled. Debbie will share her personal story, the thoughts and feelings that shook her world and how she took control of the assault on her mental health. She will shed insight into what she subsequently learned and now teaches about mental illness as well as promoting ways for First Responders to look after themselves mentally and change the stigma within their culture.

Mental Health – Break the Stigma

As a female in the male dominated career of policing, Debbie thought she had mastered the art of being tough and keeping it together. She had gained the respect of her colleagues and withstood cop, is immunized from having a mental health breakdown. Debbie will describe what she experienced, how she got back on her feet and what she subsequently learned. The goal of her talk is to help everyone recognize and acknowledge that mental health disorders are as common as many physical ailments and we all need to take part in talking about them openly and breaking the stigma surrounding them.
If you think you are too small to make a difference, you haven't spent the night with a mosquito
— African proverb

Testimonials & Clients

I met Debbie for the first time, during the 15th commemoration of the 1994 Tutsi genocide, here in Windsor.   Major Brent Beardsley, (assistant to General Dallaire during the UN mission in Rwanda in 1994) recommended her to me and when I extended her the invitation to come and share her experience, both in Darfur and in Rwanda, she accepted without hesitation or conditions.  And when she spoke, it was moving and heartfelt.   Debbie is a good person, caring and she wants to make a difference in this world. This world needs more people like Debbie.

Hiram Gahima, Advanced Service of Design Engineer at General Motors. December 2012

Mental Health in the Workplace” was what Debbie shared with a group of professionals recently at a Grand Valley HRPA event. The presentation was dynamic. Debbie’s honesty and personal candid approach was not only appreciated, but valued.
Throughout Debbie’s presentation we traveled with her on her voyage as a police sergeant to her time in countries such as Sudan where she worked as an investigator of Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide and experienced her challenges along the way. Her stories are chilling and impactful. Debbie’s presentation reminds us of the importance of our own personal health along with the importance of being a global civilian.

Susanne Martin- HR Professional. April 2013

I’ll never forget Debbie’s brave, honest and vivid speech at last fall’s CMHA convention in London, where we were both featured on the program. She has lived an extraordinary story, which she tells with grace and conviction. As Debbie spoke, I shared both her life-changing struggle to reclaim her mental health and the legacy of that struggle–a determination to leave this world a better place than she found it.

Rona Maynard, Speaker and workshop leader. June 2011

Debbie has the outstanding ability to connect with her audience. She is passionate about sharing her life experiences and is truly the consummate professional.  I would definitely recommend Debbie as a conference speaker.

Vince Savoia, M.S.M., CEC, EMCA, Founder and Executive Director, Tema Conter Memorial Trust. July 2012

I first heard Debbie speak at the Tema Conter Memorial Trust symposium on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in February 2012. Her presentation was very heartfelt, entertaining and definitely thought provoking.

My organization was fortunate to be able to have her speak at our annual fire and first aid floor warden appreciation event in May 2012 on the topics of Global Citzenship and Mental Health, including her personal reflections on her UN tours to Kosovo and Darfur. Comments from staff included “Debbie was the best speaker that we’ve had at this event”.

John Fotheringham, Director, Security & Safety, WSIB. June 2012

When planning our conference, (Criminal Intelligence Service of Ontario Conference)  we knew we wanted to address mental health of our officers but were not sure how, who or where to put it in the program.  We settled on Deb as I had heard great things about her talk.  We decided to put her presentation during our banquet.  It is heavy material so I wasn’t sure how it would be received during the “fun” night of our conference.  I am so glad I did.  I have received many positive comments and feedback from the presentation.  Deb mixes a good sense of humor with her material and kept it light when it started to get heavy.  Her presentation is very candid and raw.  One attendee commented to me, “that is the bravest thing I have ever witnessed.”  I would highly recommend Deb for your event.

Staff Sergeant Eugene Fenton, Criminal Intelligence Branch, Waterloo Regional Police Service. October 2015

I just wanted to first thank you for having such an inspiring woman come into our class to talk to us!  Now having learned more about Darfur I feel extremely ignorant for my lack of knowledge prior to the chat.  Not to mention, I find other people now extremely ignorant, especially when I mention Darfur to them and they don’t even know where it is in the world, never mind what is going on there!  If anyone makes you want to give or care it is Debbie Bodkin, it truly was amazing.

Wilfred Laurier University Student, 2015

I just wanted to take the time to thank you for coming to our class today to talk about your experiences in Darfur. Not only was it eye opening, but it was also inspiring…I want to thank you for strengthening my belief that a small town girl such as myself (and you as well) can do their part to make their own community a betterplace, and restore fundamental human dignity to people both here and thousands of miles away.

Laura, Wilfred Laurier University Student

Debb gives my students what textbooks and lectures can’t – a firsthand account of international events and the people behind them.  Debb is a powerful speaker because she speaks from the heart.  She gives a voice to all the people in Darfur who don’t have one.  Her experiences and stories are moving and leave students feeling inspired and empowered to motivate change in themselves and others.  The learnings from Debb’s presentations are ones that students will take with them long after they graduate from high school.

April Morris, Grade 12 Teacher, Richmond Green Secondary School. 2006-present

Debbie was a great at engaging the group with different media types.   She has a positive non-judgemental attitude.  Confident presenter with good interpersonal skills.

Student of the Mental Health First Aid Course

Debb should be very proud of coming to speak with the class and police in general. I found her discussion to be very refreshing and brave. More officers should be able to hear her speak as it rings true to more than will ever be known. Incredible and honest.

Ontario Police College Student



Hi, so glad you visited my website.

This is where I  want to share the causes I believe in and explain why I do what I am doing.   So, here is my story.

I was born on a farm in south western Ontario and decided in high school I wanted to be a Police Officer.

I was hired by a large municipal police service and worked at my dream career for twenty-four years.  While ‘on the job’, I worked in a variety of areas, including uniformed patrol, investigative areas including sexual assaults, drugs and homicide and the intelligence branch.

While working in the homicide branch in 2000, my police service sent me for one month to Kosovo to work as a Scenes of Crime Officer.  This position consisted of gathering evidence to assist in prosecuting those charged with the War Crimes which had occurred there.   This trip was life changing for me.  I began searching for further overseas positions in countries in need of my skills.

In the summer of 2004, I was hired by an American NGO to travel to Chad Africa for two weeks and interview the victims fleeing from crimes occurring in the neighbouring country of Sudan.   The goal of this trip was to determine who was responsible for the crimes occurring specifically in the province of Darfur, Sudan.  The results, were that the sitting President Omar Bashir, was committing crimes of genocide in Darfur.

Based on the results of the American investigation, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry for Darfur (Sudan) was created and at the end of 2004 I was hired to continue investigative work into the crimes.   I took a leave of absence from policing and lived for 3 months in Darfur, searching out and interviewing victims, witnesses and suspects of the horrific genocidal crimes which were occurring.   At the end of the investigation, the United Nations stated that President Bashir and his government are responsible for Crimes Against Humanity being committed on the people of Darfur.  I was hopeful this meant things would change, but sadly, the President still sits and the crimes continue to this day.

Shortly after my UN trip, while back at my police career, I fell into a depression spurred by the fact that I could not stop what was happening in Sudan.   Due to the stigma of mental health issues, I told no one.   My mental stability deteriorated behind closed doors but at work and in public I pushed through and carried on.  Memories of many years of traumatic work events and investigations flooded my mind to the point where I finally sought therapy.   I was suffering depression and Post Traumatic Stress.  I was lucky enough to find that counselling along with various coping techniques, slowly brought me back from what I call My Dark Time.

I ended up taking early retirement from policing at the rank of Sergeant.   My policing experiences, overseas experiences and mental health break down became the focus of my second career.  My passion now is to share all I have learned through public speaking and teaching in hopes of enlightening others.

Thanks for reading and perhaps you will invite me to share my experiences through a presentation or a course.





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march, 2020

No Events