Change needs to start right as soon as a cadet is signed on at Depot with curriculum changes/additions. In Depot there has to be a mindset instilled that members are going to see things that are going to affect them and that this is normal and it is normal as well to ask for help. Cadets need to see by video of and role plays a debriefing from both positions. As well as role play how to approach a member in need or has been diagnosed with an OSI. They need to be able to demonstrate how an incident can affect someone and it is ok to ask for help after an incident. There needs to be education in the psychological effect to the brain by trauma. Part of the physical education training needs to include mental health resilience practices, as well as signs and symptoms of PTSD.
The RCMP needs to have a PTSD survivors video library available online, showing all ranks, as well as, spouses who speak opening about their PTSD journey. This would help de-stigmatize, bring awareness and show all the different aspects of PTSD and its possible effects.
All existing Leaders and supervisors need to be trained on in the psychological effect to the brain by trauma and how to develop an open and non-threatening atmosphere around mental health. Leaders and supervisors must be able to demonstrate how to respond to a member when approached about an incident as well as how to check in with a member after one. All new leaders and supervisors must pass a module on mental health and show examples of how they have demonstrated and lead a mental health aware career.
Spouse and family members need to be invited to an OSI education and awareness event as part of the graduation ceremonies at depot. They would gain knowledge on the effects of trauma on the brain, signs and symptoms of PTSD. Spouses would learn how to support a loved one after a traumatic incident and when to seek help. What resources are available and how to access them as well as self-care. PTSD survivors would speak about their experiences. When a member marries the spousal peer support responsible for their detachment must be notified by their supervisor so they can provide the spouse with information on signs, symptoms, and resources and how to access them. An excellent example is The Calgary police service has made it mandatory all married officers must attend a 3 day OSI couple’s seminar in Canmore with their spouse. The officer is paid for their time and accommodations for the couple are covered by the police force.
There has to be a travelling road show of PTSD survivors of all ranks and spouses which brings that their message out to the working members. Development of national PTSD peer support program with representative in all detachment for both members and spouses. Ongoing up to date mental health literacy at every block training and an embedded psychologist within large detachments and areas. Members will have counselling available to them and their family on an ongoing basis with check-ins every 6 months. When a member is promoted or moved into a specialized unit there must be mental health training developed specifically for the unit which is to be given before the member joins the unit and specialized unit mental health ongoing follow up.
There needs to be zero tolerance for stigmatizing of mental health issues or individuals by any rank.
Post incident care
After all incidents members must be offered a psychological debriefing, given a list of resources available and connected with a peer support member. Mandatory check in points must be initiated after incidents, 2 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months and 6 months and they must be documented. Spouses need to be notified of incidents, not the details but that their spouse was involved in a potential traumatic incident and what services are available to them. If it is a major incident spouses need to be given the option of being involved in the psychological debriefing and follow up. Members in an isolated community should be removed from that community following a traumatic event and moved to a bigger centre so support services are available
Post diagnoses care
Standard procedure for members diagnosed with PTSD need to be implemented; must be given either a referral to an OSI clinic or a list of psychologists/psychiatrists who specialize in military/LEO PTSD. Members and spouses should not be left to figure this out for themselves. Spouses of members with PTSD must be given more than the 6 psychological visits per year and a referral to couples counselling specializing in PTSD. There needs to be mandatory post diagnoses or off duty sick checks-ins for both the member and the spouse. This must be done with honest compassion for the member and their family. Not once in over 3 years has someone from the VA or the RCMP spoken to me, ask how my husband and our family are doing if we required further support.
Not one stitch of policy can replace human contact and compassion. Human connection is the key to successful healing and return to work.
By Lori wilson