The family of an Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officer who died by suicide five years ago is seeing their work pay off after launching a fellowship in his honour.

Paul Horne from Oshawa was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder when he died at the age of 50.

“He was a top-notch human being. He had a very deep sense of caring,” Paul Horne’s brother, Rob Horne said. “My brother was really all about helping people and putting them on a better path in life.”

Horne was known to help others, so his family wanted to do the same thing.

rob horne

As part of the family’s healing, they launched a fellowship in his name in 2021, partnering with Homewood Research Institute (HRI), based in Guelph. The institute helps first responders and frontline workers living with trauma.

“There is real tangible research and understanding of post-traumatic stress that's happening and it's happening here but it needs to have the resources to access the best and brightest minds as our fellowship is trying to do,” Horne said.

Their work has reached a new milestone, with donations totaling over $40,000. This meant they were able to hire their first fellow to propel their research even further.

“We’ve been developing new treatments for first responders, public safety personnel, military members, veterans and health care workers to really assist those individuals when they do face challenges,” said Margaret McKinnon, a research chair in mental health and trauma at HRI.

McKinnon said they’re looking at aspects of post-traumatic stress injuries that are often not the focus of current treatments. She believes this research could change lives.

“We don’t often look at things like guilt, shame, disassociation – which is not being present in your body or the world around you – difficulty with memory, attention, concentration that can interfere with the ability to work and difficulty regulating emotions,” said McKinnon.

The first research fellow, chosen by McKinnon, was Andrea D’Alessandro-Lowe, a McMaster PhD student.

“We collect this data with a purpose of understanding the needs among public safety personnel and health care workers and [to] give back to those who protect and serve our communities every day,” said D’Allesandro-Lowe.

Their next goal is to hire more researchers.

Horne’s goal is to turn his family’s tragedy into a story of hope and change.

“I would just encourage you to seek those supports and know that there are really talented and committed people doing work to make tragedies like ours a thing of our past,” said Horne.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or mental health issues, please call Talk Suicide Canada at 1-833-456-4566. The following resources are also available to support people in crisis:

Hope for Wellness Helpline (English, French, Cree, Ojibway and Inuktitut): 1-855-242-3310

Embrace Life Council hotline: 1-800-265-3333

Trans Lifeline: 1-877-330-6366