Faced with a seemingly growing number of RCMP officers dealing with mental health related issues linked to their duties–including suicide–the Trudeau government has revealed it wants to take a deeper, long-term look into why and how this outcome can be prevented.
From RCMP “Depot” Division, Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale announced a 10-year research study would be launched, with the first three years to be led by the University of Regina and would cost $8.9 million.
“Results of the study will help improve the mental health care that officers in the force receive. It will help reduce absenteeism and the risk of tragedies like suicide or spousal violence,” said Goodale.
The minister said they want to identify psychological and physiological signs of trauma and stress-related disorders, including post-traumatic stress.
It’s something that’s having a profoundly negative impact on the lives of some officers all over the country.
“Since 2006 we’ve had about 40 suicides of RCMP members–serving and retired,” said RCMP Assistant Commissioner Stephen White, also the acting chief human resources officer.
The biggest challenge over the last few years, White explained, has been bringing mental health issues to the forefront. He said there’s been a stigma around it. They’re encouraging more officers to come forward. He added that the RCMP has heard regularly from members that getting timely access to resources and care has been a challenge as well.
White said the RCMP already has a number of programming and resources in place to help its officers. Thousands have already received specific training on being mentally prepared for the job, a peer to peer program is available, there’s access to clinical resources, and White mentioned, there are critical incident courses along with a critical incident after care guide. That means officers undergo debriefings with healthcare professionals, such as psychologists.
In addition, White said they’re just starting suicide prevention training.
Goodale hopes whatever researchers eventually find will compliment and build upon the resources already available to Mounties.
“Information that we will gain from this study will hopefully make those services stronger and better and more effective over the long term into the future,” said Goodale. “That’s really the goal here, to make sure that we get better and better and better at dealing with the occupational stress, injuries and challenges that officers face.”
Participation is voluntary among officers and all data collected will be anonymous. While the focus of this study will be solely on RCMP officers, the government said the findings will also be valuable to other first responders.
“You have to begin somewhere and we’re beginning with the RCMP,” said Goodale. “We don’t intend to stop here. This is the beginning of additional research activity.”