Unentitled, since my husband only witnessed and dealt with unimaginable horror he and I were not entitled to care and support. He discovered a man whom took his life by putting a rifle between his legs, the barrel in his mouth and shooting his head off. This was not the first of these incidents he was responsible for but the 5th in just over a year.
If he had entered the room and the same man had shot him. He would have had a code to call and back up on its way. He would have been rushed to the hospital and no expense would have been spared for his care and treatment. I would have had a team of professionals to talk to and care for me and my family.
He had no code to call for assistance or back up. He had to handle this horrific scene on his own with no support. He was responsible for reading the suicide note, taking 20+ pictures of the body and wound, blood, parts of the man’s skull and brain matter splattered around the room. He then had to write a detailed report describing everything which he had witnessed. Forcibly removing the rifle from the man’s hands and logging it. He had the added stress of dealing with the man’s family who showed up at the scene unexpectedly. Consoled them and persuaded them it wasn’t in their best interest to enter the room. Wait with them until victim services could arrive. This incident and the ones which preceded it were not expected to be traumatic or produce any lasting effects.
He did his job with the high level of dedication he always did and came home like it was any other day. There was nothing which would have informed me he had been involved in a traumatic incident. No knowledge he had even suffered a potential injury. No calls to check in or offers of support. No information on signs or symptoms for potential complications or services available. No follow up and nothing to prepare me or him for what was to come.
In contrast if he had been physically injured members would have watched over him around the clock. I would have been updated on his condition and his treatment. I would know what the effects of the injury where to have on him and details of his rehabilitation. I would know he needed care and what complications could develop. We would have the support of our friends and family. Members would call and drop by to check in. Everyone would have wanted to offer support and talk.
He and I were unaware of the effects this traumatic incident had on him. As he began to spiral into mental illness he had no understanding of what was happening to him. I was unaware and confused by his behavior. He felt he had nowhere to turn for support and understanding. This was not supposed to affect him. He had failed and was weak. We were isolated and unaware of the treatment, support and services which we so desperately needed.
If the unimaginable would have happened and he had died from his physical wounds a picture of him beaming in red serge would be in all the papers and internet. There would be a regimental funeral and CO’s and the Commissioner would attend. It would make the evening news with the image of me with his picture displayed larger than life in the background. He would have died a hero and commended for his sacrifice in the line of duty.
If the unimaginable had happened and he had taken his life because of his PTSD which developed from his service injury. It would not be spoken of in the media. Any acknowledgement would be small and vague. There would be no huge out pouring of support from his force or regimental funeral. No heroism or commendations for his sacrifice. My family and I would be left to pick up the pieces of our lives alone.
So we are among the unentitled, to care, support, awareness, knowledge, compassion, resources or even just acknowledgement. He not only has invisible injuries but we are among the many whose needs are also invisible.
By Lori Wilson
Founder of Familes of the RCMP for PTSD Awareness