ENHANCED SUPPORT FOR MEMBER MENTAL HEALTH
88% of Nova Scotians agree that it is important to have immediate wellness after-care for police and other public safety personnel following traumatic events. (Pollara, July 2022)
Mental health outcomes related to mass shootings include, but are not limited to
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS)
- Major depression
- Acute stress disorder
- Mood disorders
- Addiction-related conditions. [i]
“Traumatic exposures can be significantly associated with several mental disorders, including PTSD, but also depression, generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder” [ii]
These require emotional and psychological supports, including in the immediate aftermath and ensuing years through to recovery. Unfortunately, following the mass casualty, many Members of the RCMP reported that they did not feel they received the care that they needed. Due to resourcing constraints, many of those who have experienced negative impacts to their mental health have not taken time off. Additional organizational barriers have also impacted RCMP Members’ ability to seek the support they need following this tragic event.
Following a tragedy, such as the mass casualty, it is important for the RCMP to be flexible in the care they provide to their Members, even allowing temporary modifications to policies to allow for the individualized care needed. Additionally, it is critically important that staffing levels are maintained so that Members can take off the time they need to recover, and that the organization embraces a shift in culture so that front-line officers, supervisors, and others understand the need to seek care and support.
RCMP Member Mental Health:
- First Responder’s may be exposed to between 800 to 1000 traumatic incidents over their career. [iii]
- Half of RCMP Members tested in a 2017 study reported a positive screen for a mental health disorder. A rate 5 times higher than the general population. [iv]
- According to an internal survey conducted by the NPF of H Division RCMP Members, 72% of respondents reported the mass casualty had a notable impact on their mental health. [v]
- This was most common for those who responded or were part of the investigation with 87% reporting a notable impact to their mental health
Recommendation 9: The RCMP must take steps to address organizational stressors which contribute to the risk of OSI in its Members. In particular, the Commission should recommend that the RCMP must provide:
- Policy for the temporary modification of regular duties to allow for appropriate individual or team reintegration or recovery from a critical incident, without going “off duty sick” or first being deemed medically unfit for regular duties;
- Adequate staffing to reduce burnout and permit administrative, medical or other leaves necessary to promote wellness; and
- Enhanced mental health training for supervisors and officers, to promote cultural change.
Recommendation 10: The RCMP provide critical incident aftercare for Members, including:
- Ensuring sufficient, appropriately trained resources are available to conduct CISD;
- Following up in a structured manner with all involved Members, to ensure they are receiving the support they need after the CISD, including one on one counseling; and
- Improving effectiveness of formal peer support programs through appropriate training, staffing, and resourcing, and ensuring that the approach to peer support is evidence-based.
Recommendation 11: The RCMP provide evidence-based training and peer support to spouses and families of RCMP Members, recognizing the role they play in supporting Member wellness and the vicarious trauma they experience.
[i] Jaclyn Schildkraut. May 2022. Supporting Survivors and Communities after Mass Shootings. Mass Cassualty Commission Expert Report. [Online] Available at: https://masscasualtycommission.ca/files/commissioned-reports/COMM0058367.pdf?t=1655235601
[ii] Carleton, R. N., Afifi, T. O., Taillieu, T., Turner, S., Krakauer, R., Anderson, G. S., MacPhee, R. S., Ricciardelli, R., Cramm, H. A., Groll, D., & McCreary, D. R. (2019). Exposures to potentially traumatic events among public safety personnel in Canada.Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science / Revue canadienne des sciences du comportement, 51(1), 37–52. https://doi.org/10.1037/cbs0000115.
[iii] Mental Disorder Symptoms among Public Safety Personnel in Canada. [Online] Available at: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/epub/10.1177/0706743717723825
[iv] Mental Disorder Symptoms among Public Safety Personnel in Canada. [Online] Available at: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/epub/10.1177/0706743717723825
[v] National Police Federation, Member Wellness Survey, COMM0064755 https://masscasualtycommission.ca/files/fd-source-materials/additional-exhibits/COMM0064755.pdf?t=1668548171