Here is a “first-step” action plan foundation from which can be built approaches for reacting to Trauma and PTSD within any police or emergency service, including the RCMP.
1. Initiate an immediate implementation of a “Pre-Incident Awareness Workshops for: Developing Resilience and Resistance to Trauma in the Workplace” for all members and spouses
ü Initiates a first step towards preparing employees and their families fully to the effects of trauma and PTSD. Gets rid of the “Fog of Ignorance” which is one of the most damaging aspects of dealing with trauma and PTSD when it does happen.
ü Address the three stages of :
o Pre-incident(s) education
o Incident(s) support through confusion, disbelief and fear
o Post-incident(s) support
ü Creates an environment where employees and their families have a plan with the organization on how best to respond together to trauma when it does happen. (This will require some policy and procedural processes to be in place that can show a willingness to work with employees and families together to address proper reaction to trauma events.)
ü Creates a communication opportunity to show that a first step, in partnership with employees and their families is in place to help prepare for and react to trauma events.
2. Address organizationally and in partnership with members and their families how the first critical hours of a trauma event(s) will be addressed. (could be 24 hours , 48 hours or more – whatever the hours may be.) In this policy and procedural process it address what members and families can be anticipated to go through when a trauma or series of trauma events is occurring, such as confusion, disbelief and fear and how it will be managed and how they will be supported.
ü Creates a system whereby no matter where someone works every member and family member will see and be part of a support mechanism that addresses:
- · Their confusion about what is happening;
- · Their confusion about what will happen;
- · Their confusion about what it is they need to be prepared for;
- · Clarity of the processes that will be initiated as a result of the trauma event thereby addressing their disbelief in accepting the complexity of what is happening
- · Reassurance that they will not be abandoned in, not only the short term , but long term as well.
- · Grounding in reality, in that things can go bad for the member, so best to lay it all out on the table to best be prepared for the worst, rather than be left wondering what the reality truly is.
- · Creates a communication opportunity to show that there is a process in place for working with employees and their families.
3. Address organizationally and in partnership with members and their families how post-trauma support will be managed long-term.
NOTE: Many widows, spouses of injured members and especially spouses of those suffering of PTSD feel abandoned very quickly by the Service. In general, but not always, there is so much attention paid to them at the time of the event, that they feel secure in their relationship with the organization and those who are responsible for them. And that often only lasts as long as the injury is evident or the funeral is fresh in everyone’s mind. Once past that time frame however, many spouse and family members feel abandoned and ignored. Especially if the injury was never physically visible. When they reach that stage, it is hard to fix. It shouldn’t reach that stage to start with. This can be fixed by assigning an active file for constant work and follow up by those held responsible and assigned specifically to the family file.
ü Creates a system whereby no matter where someone works every member and family member will see:
- · That even long-term there is someone who can be called upon to clarify issues
- · That they are not relegated to the “back-burner and forgotten” by some administrative bureaucrat who treats them as a number or file;
- · That they do have value to the organization and that;
- · Everyone is working together to get the member back to work, if possible, – in partnership with the family.
- · Creates a communication opportunity to show that there is an organizational will to get people back to work and that members and their families will not be abandoned by the organization throughout that process.
By initiating these first three steps it creates a “line in the sand” that says that from now on, here is how we will address this type of situation and environment issues and addresses many of the existing complaints with regards to how members have been treated in the past, along with their spouses and families.
Sylvio (Syd) A Gravel, M.O.M.
Staff Sergeant (ret’d.),
Ottawa Police Service,
“56 Seconds” & “How to Survive PTSD and Build Peer Support”
P.O.Box 63 Fitzroy Harbour, Ontario