LGen the Hon. Roméo A Dallaire (ret’d), Senator,
My name is______________ I have been a Constable for the last 15 years in Royal Canadian Mounted Police. I am also diagnosed with PTSD.
I saw a posting on a Facebook group called “Families of the RCMP for PTSD Awareness” that mentioned the committee you head on PTSD in the Military and the RCMP and that you might be interested in hearing about the experiences of members who have PTSD. Under normal circumstances, I would not consider writing anything on this subject but I feel that it may be important to share. I hope that one day the RCMP culture will expand to include compassion for members who suffer OSIs. It may happen, but I doubt that I will see it before I retire.
I joined the RCMP in 1998, in Alberta, graduating Depot in November of that year. Since then Ihave had 5 postings:
I have re‐written this letter a number of times already, trying to get it just right and say what I want it to say, but it has been difficult. I finally decided that I would try to find one word that describes how I feel about my experiences and go from there. That word is: marginalized.
When I first accepted the diagnosis of PTSD a little over eight years ago, I had no idea how it would impact my life. I had been suffering for some time with problems but I did not know what it was, or even care. I just knew that I had to keep putting one foot ahead of the other. But when I recognized what was wrong face on, it became very overwhelming for me. Everything that I had carefully tucked away in my memory seemed to spill out all at the same time and I could not process it. I realize now that it was necessary, but then I felt I had made a terrible mistake.
When I began my service, the coping mechanism that I learned was found at the bottom of a liquor bottle. My peers and I would meet at one another’s houses and drink, many times to excess, after a difficult shift. I don’t know if there was any critical incident debriefings then or not, but I never had one or heard of anyone else having one either.
My career is now divided into pre‐Duty to Accommodate and post‐Duty to Accommodate.
Everything changed; my identity as a regular member, my self‐confidence, my aspirations, and my opportunities within the RCMP. I felt like I had all of my protective layers peeled away one by one and I was left alone, no longer a member of the “family.”
Pre‐DTA I had career goals and promotional opportunities. I was encouraged to take charge of my career path and I was free to accept or refuse any transfer offers that were presented to me. Post‐DTA my only career goal was to still have a job with the RCMP and my opportunities disappeared because my medical restrictions are so stringent that I do not qualify for any of the promotions I have yet seen, and those few that I could possibly take advantage of are not open to promotions, but are lateral transfers.
When I am interviewed by staffing and personnel (which does not happen very often), each discussion is prefaced with an explanation – refusal of any reasonable job offer could be grounds for the initiation of medical discharge proceedings. Fortunately, I have received only three offers, none of which I could accept due to my restrictions.
Pre‐DTA I was becoming a leader as a senior Constable, drawing on my experience with northern Native Policing. Junior members would even ask for my advice at times. I was looking ahead to advancement and promotion. Post‐DTA my experiences have been dismissed. Nothing I have done or learned during my service is valued anymore. I only remain a member at the sufferance of the RCMP.
I have also had to come to terms with the attitude towards members with OSIs, attitudes, I am sorry to say, I shared before I accepted that PTSD was a real condition with very real, and physical, symptoms. Faker, slacker, drain on the system – even our current Commissioner echoed those attitudes in a speech he made at our Division change of command ceremony. He referenced both psychological and therapeutic services by asking “how many pats on the back” and “how many back rubs” did members need?
When I left Depot in the fall of ’98, I expected to have a long and rewarding career in the RCMP. I wanted to have a “constellation” on the shoulder of my serge (have a large number of service stars) before I left. Now I am just waiting for the right moment.
I hope that what I have written here is of some help to you. I do not know if this is what you are looking for but I am satisfied that I have said what I wanted to say. I have only touched on my professional experience with PTSD and not on my personal experiences. All I wish to say about that is for every disappointment I’ve had professionally, it has been more than made up for by a loving, supportive wife and two wonderful little children. I am happy with where I am today because of them.
I am certain that there are a lot of other members of the RCMP that have had similar experiences and I believe that some may be opening up about it. Although, I know that there are many more who suffer in silence because they do not recognize what is happening to them, or they are hiding it so that their careers are not negatively impacted.
Name withheld upon request