A confidential, 24-7 phone line staffed by a team of volunteer police officers has been established to provide a safe space for officers in distress to seek help.

Boots on the Ground launched last week and is the brainchild of Dave McLennan, a former police officer who understands first-hand the challenges that police officers face today.

“There’s a lot of violence, a lot of gun violence, they’re under a lot of scrutiny with social media and everyone videoing them all the time when they’re working. So there’s a lot of pressure on people right now, more so than there was 30 years ago when I started,” McLennan told CTV News Channel on Tuesday.

Many police forces have their own supports in place for officers. But McLennan says many officers are wary to accept those supports due to stigma and a fear of repercussions.

“So we wanted to offer something to fill that gap so that first responders would have somewhere to go to where they can talk confidentially with someone that they don’t have to worry about it getting back to their employer or to their workplace,” he said.

The toll-free phone line went live on Nov. 26 and is staffed around the clock by a team of 75 police officers. Volunteers received peer support training and suicide prevention training and, if need be, are able to go out and meet callers within the Greater Toronto Area.

“To be involved in similar experiences definitely helps you understand and relate and empathize with people,” McLennan said.

Eventually, the organization hopes to expand to broaden its scope to help all sorts of first responders.

“Right now we’re all police officers, but we’re expanding that to fire, EMS and corrections volunteers as well,” he said.

On its website, Boots on the Ground outlines that it does not replace mental health services and that volunteers handling calls are not accredited to provide psychological, medical or other health services.

The organization adds that it will not disclose callers’ personal information to any third party “unless either legally required to do so or otherwise lawfully authorized.”