First of all I wish to commend you for establishing this site as I can see that it is helping to get the message out. I’ve read all of your postings and messages and would also wish to thank those who have stepped forward and shared their own stories. One in particular asked for someone from management to step forward and share a bit of their experience so I thought I would.
I retired in December, 2013 after over 32 years of service with the RCMP. I am grateful for the opportunities I had and humbled by the strength and dignity by which the vast majority of our members (including first responders and military) carry themselves every day; both at work and at home in their communities. After my career in front-line operations and a few trips to Afghanistan, I eventually succumbed to an OSI. I had just about every symptom and behaviour associated with this illness and it took a toll on my family, my work, and my own health. The hard part was accepting there was something wrong. The hardest part was asking for help. As police officers we simply are not wired to accept “defeat”. I am not implying that either OSI’s or PTSD are “defeats”, but the reality is that there is still a ways to go before society in general – and especially amongst police – accept that mental illness and injuries are just as debilitating as any physical injury – perhaps more so because the stigma still attached to them. Yes, there are challenges and those that suffer from OSI’s and PTSD will face the ignorance of a few (I’ve experienced them first-hand myself following my diagnosis); but the support you receive from both professionals and peers can be overwhelmingly positive, especially now that the message is being shared. More people are stepping out of the shadows and sharing the message that we’re not alone; that help is out there. I believe there is still a lot of work to do before we get there, but I also believe that there is momentum to see positive changes affected. All first responders need to have a solid understanding of what OSI’s and PTSD are, and how they affect people, their families, and society in general. As individuals, we also need to take care of ourselves. Managers need to assume even greater responsibility in dealing with this issue. We need to continue the discussions by bringing them out from the shadows. By talking about the issues openly with a goal of seeking solutions. I am grateful for the health care I received, and the amazing peer support I got from people at all levels of the organization. I am also thankful for my family and friends who have patiently stood by me and provided the greatest support of all. For those in NL with whom I shared my experiences with OSI and PTSD, I only wish I could have spoken out more. The dialogue needs to continue.
Jeff Hunter, Supt. (Retd)