To me, policing is on the list of  the most important jobs in the world. Teachers are on that list, too.

Inner-city aid workers. And of course … City Councillors for Ward 6, the best Ward in Edmonton.

But of all those jobs, policing is perhaps the most trying. You graduates will put yourself in harm’s way to keep us safe. And by that, I don’t just mean physically.

Policing is stressful. It asks that officers witness things the rest of us would rather not know or think about. The risk is of anxiety and trauma — and the resulting side effects of PTSD, anxiety disorders, depression and addiction.

The reason I raise this today is because I know of these things. Not just as a member of the Lieutenant Governor’s Circle on Mental Health and Addiction, but personally.

If I could leave you with a message today it is this. First, I’m not trying to scare you or your families. The opposite, in fact.

My message is that it is normal to need mental health support at some point in your life. It is normal to experience dark nights of the soul – perhaps even more normal for cops. My wish and my hope is that it become normal for police to reach out for professional help when required.

You in this graduating class will face some trying circumstances ahead. You will be held to almost unreasonable standards of conduct. You will engage regularly with people who aren’t exactly spilling over with the milk of human kindness.

My hope for you is that you will continue to see yourself as part of the community you serve. Not just part of an ‘us’ — police — set apart from a ‘them’ — the rest.

Nor as heroes – that’s way too much pressure. My hope is that you will go with pride as community leaders, public servants and role models.

I can’t tell you how proud this rookie councillor is to be here today. My pride – our pride – is for you. May you always know that our pride goes with you on this journey.

Good luck … and thank you very much.

By Scott McKeen, City Councillor Ward 6