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First responders being hit harder than ever by PTSD, and they need help

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First responders flank funeral of Cpl. Trevor O'Keefe

Post by Guest on Sat 16 Sep 2017, 08:11

Honour guard: First responders flank funeral of Cpl. Trevor O'Keefe

Well-known RCMP officer died by suicide Monday

CBC News Posted: Sep 15, 2017

RCMP colleagues salute at the funeral service for Cpl Trevor O'Keefe in Bay Bulls Friday. (Ted Dillon/CBC

Mounties and other first responders gathered in Bay Bulls Friday to honour RCMP Cpl. Trevor O'Keefe who died by suicide on Monday.

Members of the RCMP and Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, firefighters, paramedics, corrections officers and others attended the memorial service at Saints Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church.

O'Keefe died by suicide Monday, after a battle with post-traumatic stress syndrome. He was 47.

The well-known officer was a 17-year veteran of the RCMP and was highly regarded.

O'Keefe's death has focused attention on the pressures faced by police officers as they do their job.

RCMP officers, wearing their formal red dress, greeted people at the front door of the church, while loud speakers allowed those outside of the church to listen to the service for O'Keefe

At the start of the funeral, O'Keefe's parents addressed those gathered in Bay Bulls.

"Trevor was a great man. He dearly loved us. God bless all of you for coming here to support him. He would have loved it," O'Keefe's father Pierre said.

'Trevor has left us a legacy that will live forever. A kind hearted man, he was generous.'
- Biddy O'Keefe

His mother, Biddy, said she and her family are heartbroken.

"Trevor has left us a legacy that will live forever. A kind-hearted man, he was generous. His love knew no bounds. His love of his friends was genuine," she said.

"He would shine those [RCMP] boots would until they glistened."

Flags were lowered Friday to honour RCMP Cpl. Trevor O'Keefe.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Boyd Merrill told CBC News that his friend and colleague had a good sense of humour and was a caring and fun-loving person.

"Trevor O'Keefe was an amazing individual," Merrill said.

"Not only was he an amazing police officer, he was a tremendous father. He was just a joy to be around for co-workers and the communities that he worked in. He was well known for his compassion and his understanding."

O'Keefe was close to his Irish roots, and was laid to rest Friday on the Southern Shore he loved at the Tors Cove Roman Catholic cemetery.

Former premier and police officer Paul Davis arrived to pay his respects to family and friends of Trevor O'Keefe.


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RCMP officer's death highlights gaps in mental health support for first responders

Post by Guest on Thu 14 Sep 2017, 16:39

'One of a kind': RCMP officer's death highlights gaps in mental health support for first responders

Trevor O’Keefe, a 17-year veteran of the force, had been wrestling with work-related post-traumatic stress disorder, according to family and colleagues

Trevor John O'Keefe took his life after struggling for years with PTSD.

Douglas Quan
September 14, 2017

In recent weeks, RCMP Cpl. Trevor O’Keefe, a media relations officer in St. John’s, Nfld., re-tweeted several pictures his fiancée had taken on their vacation in California and Mexico.

In one, the smiling couple, bathed in sunshine, mugged for the camera while holding colourful drinks. “Best vacation to date!” the post read.

But behind that facade, O’Keefe, a 17-year veteran of the force, had been wrestling with work-related post-traumatic stress disorder, according to family and colleagues.

On Monday, the 47-year-old father (he had a son and stepdaughter) took his own life at home, the CBC reported. An online obituary later revealed that his death followed a “courageous battle with PTSD.”

Observers said the case highlights the urgent need for first responders in the country to address gaps in mental health services for their employees.

“It’s difficult to change a culture when the culture within policing ranks is one of ‘suck it up and move on,’ ” said Vince Savoia, executive director of Tema Conter Memorial Trust, a charity dedicated to providing mental health training and education to public safety agencies.

“It’s still the prevailing attitude.”

Since 2014, according to the charity, there have been 226 suicides among public safety and military personnel, 56 from within policing ranks.

A recent national survey involving nearly 6,000 first responders across Canada found 45 per cent of respondents reported symptoms consistent with at least one mental disorder — much higher than in the general population.

Itu2019s difficult to change a culture when the culture within policing ranks is one of u2018suck it up and move on'

The survey results, published last month in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, also found RCMP officers, correctional workers and paramedics were more likely to experience mental disorders compared to municipal and provincial police and firefighters.

The research team, led by University of Regina psychology professor Nick Carleton, suggested that frequent relocation among RCMP members and the large number of members who work alone could be contributing factors.

Savoia, a former paramedic, said constant exposure to trauma can build up over time, affecting first responders’ personal lives.

Vince Savoia says first responders “inadvertently absorb the trauma they see and that impacts their ability to cope with future traumas.”

“They inadvertently absorb the trauma they see and that impacts their ability to cope with future traumas,” he said.

They can also suffer from what Savoia called “moral injuries” — feelings of guilt and helplessness when they witness, for instance, a fatal car accident, in which parents are killed and children survive.

Savoia said better training is needed to help first responders recognize stressors they face on the job and to help them spot behavioural changes in their colleagues.

Even though there’s greater awareness of mental health issues these days, first responders still hesitate to seek help because of fear of blowback from managers, he said.

In a statement, RCMP spokesman Sgt. Harold Pfleiderer said the force takes mental illness very seriously, which is why it developed an “aftercare guide” for managing stress after critical incidents in 2016 and is working to ensure that critical incident debriefs are mandatory in every detachment.

The force is also carrying out a 10-year research study of its cadets to identify how trauma and stress-related disorders manifest themselves and ways to provide better support.

Pfleiderer said the force has documented 39 suicides among its active and retired members since 2006.

Earlier this year, Canada’s auditor general slammed the RCMP in a report that found members “did not have access to mental health support that met their needs.”

Programs to support early detection and intervention were only “partially implemented,” the report found. In over one-quarter of cases examined, the RCMP “did not have records that would allow us to assess whether members received the help they needed when they needed it.” And one in five members who sought mental health support did not return to work or were discharged.

Meanwhile, the policing community in Newfoundland and Labrador is remembering O’Keefe as a kind-hearted, “one of a kind” officer who loved the force and its traditions.

“Trevor was a morale-builder. He was a spirit-lifter. He made people feel better about their jobs and their tasks,” said Staff Sgt. Boyd Merrill, O’Keefe’s supervisor.

“He had an incredible way to make you smile and laugh. … He didn’t die of a broken heart. It was a heart that was too big.”

Const. Geoff Higdon, a spokesman for the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, described O’Keefe as “always positive and high energy.”

“He and I often worked together on projects … and I always enjoyed our talks. Work talk aside, we always chatted about travel over a coffee when we got together and he spoke highly of his fiancée, Roberta.”

Colleagues suggested that years of dealing with tragic cases, coupled with fatigue and long hours, may have taken a toll. O’Keefe, The Telegram reported, was the lead investigator in a house fire that killed three children in 2008. He was also one of the first officers to respond to a fatal police shooting in 2015 that led to a public inquiry, in which O’Keefe was questioned extensively.

One anonymous officer told the CBC that O’Keefe had “bunkered away” a lot over the years. “The public needs to be aware that when we go home and tear away that uniform, there’s not a Superman suit underneath.”

O’Keefe’s fiancee, Roberta White, seemed acutely aware of this reality. A couple weeks ago, she replied to an RCMP tweet about a fatal accident that had claimed the life of a child.

“Thinking of how hard it is on you as first responders,” she wrote. “I know I’ll hold my RCMP husband/kids tight tonight.”


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Re: First responders being hit harder than ever by PTSD, and they need help

Post by Newf on Wed 13 Sep 2017, 10:11

Very sad news back on the Rock with the loss of an RCMP Officer to PTSD.
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RCMP plan to launch study on operational stress, PTSD in Mounties

Post by Guest on Tue 08 Aug 2017, 16:10

RCMP plan to launch study on operational stress, PTSD in Mounties

Nearly half of new long-term disability claims in 2016 cited mental health issues

By Stephanie Taylor, CBC News Posted: Aug 08, 2017 5:00 AM CT Last Updated: Aug 08, 2017 5:00 AM CT

Police officers have to deal with traumatic situations on a near daily basis, which over a career can lead to the development of operational stress injuries, like post-traumatic stress disorders, says B.C-based psychologist Dr. Jeff Morley.

Canada's national police force is looking to launch a study into the mental and physiological markers for depression, addictions and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in its officers.

Details of the study are outlined in a request for proposal listed on the federal government's buy and sell website, which shows the RCMP is looking to hire a multidisciplinary team of experts, including psychologists, clinicians and psychiatrists, to conduct the research.

"These specialists will collaborate with the RCMP starting at the cadet level, and then conduct a longitudinal experimental study that will follow those cadets over the next 10 years," Cpl. Annie Delisle, a spokesperson for the RCMP, wrote in an email response to CBC News.

CBC was told an interview could not be accommodated by the time of deadline.

New treatments

Researchers would be required to focus on identifying the psychological and physiological markers for operational stress injuries like PTSD in officers.

"This research will be used to develop innovative evidence-based interventions to increase resiliency and to deliver preemptive interventions to protect the mental health of police officers," according to Delisle.

The RCMP says despite current strategies to prevent mental health issues, it continues to lose officers to stress and trauma related injuries.

In 2016, the RCMP said 249 new long-term disability claims were filed and of those 46.9 per cent cited mental health issues. In 2014, that figure was 41.7 per cent.

RCMP officers examine the wreckage of a plane that crashed in Richmond, B.C., in July, killing two people. RCMP officers have increasingly been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, some afflicted after witnessing scenes like these.

Research 'long overdue'

B.C's Dr. Jeff Morley, a retired Mountie turned registered psychologist who works with first responders and members of the Canadian Forces and Veteran Affairs Canada, welcomes news of the study.

He said the psychological toll police work has on individuals is well known and that research of this scope is "long overdue."

"When we hire new cops they're pretty healthy. They've got physical tests, psychological tests, they're polygraphed, they're background checked, I mean arguably they're pretty squeaky clean, right? And we know they're not going to stay that way.

'We know that some police officers, you know, are going to develop PTSD, depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, addictions ... Rarely, in my experience, has that happened in just a moment. It usually evolves over time throughout the course of one's career," Morley explained.

"The more information that we can obtain to better understand how police work affects employees, officers over time, the better."

He said current rates of operational stress injuries among members is unknown due to a lack of formal research on the subject.

Citing different studies done in the U.S and Canada, he said 20 per cent is a conservative estimate for how many members experience mental health issues.

960 volunteers needed

According to proposal, the study would take place at the RCMP training depot in Regina and the findings be funnelled to Ottawa.

In order to "obtain statistically useful data," it requires 960 cadets be recruited to participate within three years from when the contract for the study is awarded.

The RCMP reports 1,110 cadets are trained in the depot each year. That breaks down into 34 troops per year that can be comprised of up to 32 cadets.

Once recruited, cadets would be divided into a control and experimental group.
'When we hire new cops they're pretty healthy. They've got physical tests, psychological tests, they're polygraphed, they're background checked, arguably they're pretty squeaky clean, right? And we know they're not going to stay that way.'

Those placed in the experimental group would receive "evidence-based interventions," such as cognitive behavioural therapy, throughout the study "for increasing resiliency and reducing psychological risk," to stress injures, the statement reads.

Before any study could begin, the RCMP's human resources research review board would need to sign off on the team's research plan in order to ensure it meets ethical standards.

Start at cadet training

Cadets must undergo a six-month training regime before they are formally accepted into the RCMP and deployed as sworn members. If a cadet does not pass training, they will be disqualified from the study.

The RCMP specifies that participating cadets must be psychologically assessed by the research team within a week of arriving at the depot for training, and once again before they are deployed.

Once cadets leave the academy, each will be expected to participate the study for up to five years, unless they leave the RCMP or decide to withdraw themselves.

"Participants will complete regular self-report assessments, provide physiological data, as well as participate in an annual psychological assessment," according to the project's statement of work.

"An efficient way in which to collect and transmit data [physiological, self-report assessments, etc.] would be through a smartphone or similar mobile device."

The RCMP states researchers would have to supply 960 mobile devices, one for each participant.

Physical measurements

The study would see officers strap on some form of wearable technology in order for researchers to monitor and record their heart rate variability and possibly sleep pattern and breathing.

Morely said the plan to track an officer's psychological state over time is wise.

"This is what we know about trauma. PTSD is not just like a problem or symptoms that just affect one's cognitive functioning. It certainly affects our emotions, but also sleep, heart rate, changes in cardiovascular symptoms.

"Many people with PTSD have chronically spiked adrenaline, severe difficulties sleeping."

The more data, the better

The research team will be expected to submit regular progress reports, data findings, and training recommendations to the RCMP.

The project's statement of work specifies recommendations must address whether the psychological practices taught to members in the experiment group should continue and if the training impacts their mental health.

Saying whether regular psychological assessments should continue and how the RCMP can decrease the severity and prevalence of operational stress injuries are also expected in the final report.

"The more data we can have to better understand [post-traumatic stress disorder], may not necessarily prevent it at 100 per cent for sure, but may equip people to better recognize early warning signs in themselves and others," Morley said.

"Exposure to trauma cannot be prevented, that's part of the job," he said.


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New audit slams RCMP’s efforts on staff mental health

Post by Guest on Tue 16 May 2017, 11:44

New audit slams RCMP’s efforts on staff mental health

Federal Auditor General Michael Ferguson says the RCMP failed to allocate enough money and staff to implement a mental health strategy it rolled out in May 2014.

By TONDA MACCHARLES Ottawa Bureau reporter Tues., May 16, 2017

OTTAWA—One in five Mounties or 20 per cent of the workforce that has sought mental health support from the RCMP ends up not returning to work or being discharged, according to a new federal audit critical of the national police force’s lacklustre efforts to meet the mental health needs of its employees.

Federal Auditor General Michael Ferguson says the RCMP, already reeling from two reports slamming its inability to deal with workplace harassment, failed to allocate enough money and staff to implement a mental health strategy it rolled out in May 2014.

In some cases Mounties waited more than two years to get access to psychological treatment services. One in six members, or 16 per cent, of employees who sought help couldn’t get timely access to support, and in 27 per cent of the cases examined, the RCMP did not have records to allow the audit to assess whether members got the help they needed when they needed it.

“The RCMP is only as strong as its members,” said the auditors. “If the organization does not effectively manage members’ mental health and fulfill its responsibilities to support their return to work, members struggle to carry out their duties, their confidence in the RCMP may be undermined, and the RCMP’s effectiveness may be reduced.”

The RCMP was one of the first federal organizations to roll out a mental health strategy.

But according to the audit which looked at early detection, intervention and continuous support programs, the RCMP’s efforts were plagued by the same kind of ad hoc and limited support that another watchdog agency this week said doomed its efforts to deal with workplace harassment, bullying and intimidation.

Auditor General of Canada Michael Ferguson found RCMP supervisors lacked knowledge about their roles and responsibilities on mental health issues with staff.

“It did not make the strategy’s implementation a priority or commit the human and financial resources needed for the strategy’s full and effective implementation. We found that new mental health programs to support early detection and intervention were only partially implemented, and that the RCMP did not allocate budgets to support them.”

The audit said while 57 per cent of members got easy and timely access to the mental health support they needed, 16 per cent did not. Combined with the lack of records to determine the outcomes for the other 27 percent, the auditors concluded that the force failed in its duty to its frontline officers and in its responsibility to Canadians to ensure they are “fit for duty.”

“This audit is important because poor mental health has a direct impact on the well-being of members, their colleagues, and their families. Left unmanaged and unsupported, mental health issues can lead to increased absenteeism, workplace conflict, high turnover, low productivity, and increased use of disability and health benefits. Ultimately, members’ poor mental health affects the RCMP’s capacity to serve and protect Canadians.”

The RCMP is a sprawling, massive organization with 29,000 employees, including uniformed officers, civilian members who are often technical and forensic experts, and public service employees in administrative support roles.

Last September, the audit says, there were about 900 of its regular uniformed and civilian experts off on sick leave (meaning on a leave of 30 days due to illness) but the RCMP could not say how many of those were off for mental health reasons, because it doesn’t track that data—the same answer it gave the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission earlier this week when asked how many employees took sick leave due to workplace harassment.

The RCMP, the audit says, expects its employees to maintain their own health and fitness for duty, but its mental health strategy aimed at early detection of problems, and trying to manage them before things escalated and impaired a person’s functions on the job.

Yet there are no consistent service standards in place for mental health services.

After an employee has sought treatment, managers have a duty to accommodate the needs of officers trying to reintegrate into the workplace. However, the audit found supervisors lacked accurate lists to contact their members to coordinate their re-entry, lacked knowledge about their roles and responsibilities in this regard, and recommended the RCMP develop better training for its supervisors.

Overall, the RCMP’s mental health strategy ran into a wall with not enough money or staff allocated to the program. There was no business plan to implement it. Auditors said the health services offices – responsible for coordinating and facilitating treatment for those in need—in all of the RCMP’s 15 divisions were “under-resourced” which created a domino effect in the very offices set up to help.

“We found that the RCMP’s lack of resources—combined with the high demand for services, the backlogs, and frustrated members—created a stressful workplace for health services staff. Moreover, health services offices found it difficult to attract and retain qualified medical and mental health practitioners.”

The audit found many Mounties are reluctant to seek help because they feared the implications of doing that — either being unable to continue on the job or career reprisals.

“From our survey of regular and civilian RCMP members, we found that 79 per cent of respondents on off-duty sick leave and 44 per cent of active duty respondents believed that seeking help would have a negative impact on their careers with the RCMP.”

It found a lack of case management system to track employees’ treatment, progress and outcomes. It found a joint committee of veterans affairs and RCMP departmental officials set up to work together on operational stress injuries hadn’t met since 2009, and three years into the RCMP’s mental health strategy, the effort needed much more coordination, staffing and money to be effective.

Ferguson made several recommendations for improvement, including calling on the force adopt a business plan to guide it. The RCMP managers agreed to convert its current strategy into a business plan with specific resource requirements attached for the next two years.


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Re: First responders being hit harder than ever by PTSD, and they need help

Post by Newf on Fri 12 May 2017, 15:48

Looking forward to reading that report.
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Number of posts : 143
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Auditor-General expected to expose RCMP’s mental-health failings

Post by Guest on Fri 12 May 2017, 15:39

Auditor-General expected to expose RCMP’s mental-health failings

The RCMP is bracing for tough new questions on the way the force treats its members across the country, this time in relation to the handling of mental-health issues by Mounties who are struggling to deal with stressful and traumatic incidents, sources say.

The Auditor-General of Canada will release a report on the RCMP's mental-health strategy on Tuesday. According to officials who are aware of its contents, the report paints a largely negative picture of the services provided to Mounties over the years, which stands to further darken the force's reputation in the eyes of the public.

"It's not laudatory," a senior officer at the RCMP said of the report.

The national police force has struggled in recent years with issues such as widespread sexual harassment of female members going back decades, and a number of fatal incidents that raised questions about training and equipment, culminating with the fatal shooting of three Mounties in Moncton three years ago.

In a separate report on Monday, which is also expected to be hard-hitting, the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP will address "workplace harassment" in the national police force.

The Auditor-General's report deals with issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is on the rise in the RCMP, but also with a series of other mental-health problems that regularly affect officers such as anxiety, depression and other stress-related issues.

The Auditor-General's work will build on a series of public complaints by current and retired Mounties about the lack of treatment for mental-health problems. Corporal Curtis Barrett, who was one of two people who shot terrorist Michael Zehaf-Bibeau in Parliament's Centre Block in 2014, has publicly criticized the RCMP for failing to support him after the incident, revealing he was suicidal for a period.

"Nobody from my organization was calling me to say, 'Good job,' " Cpl. Barrett told a mental-health conference earlier this year. "I went from being … 'I'm a rock-star hero,' to 'I feel like driving my car into a truck.' "

In another case, Cpl. Ron Francis sought the right to smoke marijuana on the job to cope with PTSD. His suicide in 2014 brought issues of mental health to the forefront of the public agenda, including widespread criticism of the RCMP's handling of his case.

"They took his uniform from him, they stripped him of his privileges, they charged him under the Police Act … and he always came back to 'I just want them to understand what I am going through,' " his friend and lawyer T.J. Burke said at the time.

The Auditor-General's report is expected to lay out the RCMP's failures in addressing the needs of Mounties who are affected by critical incidents, such as fatal shootings and hostage situations, or from an accumulation of highly stressful calls. RCMP members also deal with mental-health issues that stem from their regular duties, including participating in undercover operations or child pornography investigations.

Asked for their reaction to the upcoming report, senior officials at the RCMP acknowledged shortcomings in their past handling of mental-health issues, but described a series of recent initiatives to improve training and services to members. A key effort is to destigmatize mental-health problems among Mounties.

"We're trying to build an organization that becomes very understanding and compassionate with regards to mental-health issues in the workplace," said Assistant Commissioner Stephen White, who is the RCMP's mental-health champion.

"We're a very large organization, with a history as a paramilitary organization, a policing organization with a lot of structure around it right across the country. So in terms of us changing the culture around stigma related to mental health, it is not something that takes place or is fully implemented overnight, in a week or years. It's an ongoing work in progress," he said.

The RCMP has drastically overhauled its mental-health strategy in recent years, offering 24/7 access to the Health Canada employee-assistance program since 2013 and putting a growing emphasis on peer-to-peer support services.

The force is also working on training all current and future employees on its mental-health services by 2018.

A key challenge for the RCMP has been officers falling through the cracks of a complex disability system after being involved in traumatic incidents. Former Mountie Trevor Josok, for example, is challenging his 2016 dismissal from the RCMP after he developed PTSD following the shooting of four of his colleagues at Mayerthorpe in Alberta in 2005.

The RCMP is now in the final stages of overhauling its program to deal with officers on disability leave, with a clear emphasis on helping officers with mental-health issues to remain on the job or get new duties inside the force in a majority of cases.

"The focus of this program is retention," said Christine Sakiris, who is the head of the force's disability management and accommodation programs. "It's not easy to train an RCMP member … we want to retain the services of the members that we have."

Still, the RCMP is facing questions over the speed with which new programs have been put in place. For example, a new "stress-management after-care guide" was recently put in place to deal with Mounties involved in so-called critical incidents, which refer to shooting, fatal auto crashes and other events that can trigger cases of PTSD and other issues.

However, the guide was only released in 2016, two years after both the Moncton shootings, in which three officers were killed by Justin Bourque, and the attack involving Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau.

Assistant Commissioner White is well aware the RCMP will face questions over the speed with which programs have been adapted to a changing environment surrounding mental-health issues.

"We're going in the right direction," he said. "The Auditor-General is currently doing an audit of our mental-health service delivery, so we're hoping that from that, we'll get some good feedback and recommendations in terms of continuing to enhance what we are doing and doing some things differently."

RCMP chief psychologist Roxane Marois added: "We have always adapted to new realities and new approaches. Still, adapting takes time, it doesn't happen overnight and we have to undertake proper research to find the right solutions."

The RCMP is set to launch a 10-year study to monitor the mental health of new recruits as they move into the force and go through their first assignments.

"Despite everything that we have done … we are very mindful that we need to do more," said Sylvie Châteauvert, the RCMP's director-general of occupational health and safety.

Investigator Jagdeep Soin, who helps his colleagues through peer-to-peer support, said Mounties are used to spending months training how to shoot or drive their police cars. He said they are now also learning how to take care of their bodies and their minds.

"Just because you have six-months' training, it doesn't prepare you for that, for your human emotions," he said of a Mountie's life.


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Psychiatrist says PTSD treatment for Mounties improving, but not fast enough

Post by Guest on Mon 16 Jan 2017, 16:02

Psychiatrist says PTSD treatment for Mounties improving, but not fast enough

'PTSD is going to be quite widespread within the RCMP and other first-responder organizations'

By Vanessa Blanch, CBC News Posted: Jan 16, 2017 8:00 AM AT Last Updated: Jan 16, 2017 1:09 PM AT

Psychiatrist Mark Johnston wants to see the RCMP collaborate with the military, which encountered and recognized PTSD earlier and offers better supports.

Help for RCMP officers who struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder is improving, but Mark Johnston is urging the force to move more quickly to implement its 2014 mental health strategy.

Johnston, a Nova Scotia psychiatrist who treats police officers and military members in his private practice, said the biggest challenge for an RCMP officer suffering with PTSD is having it recognized.

"It's a bit hit or miss right now," Johnston told Information Morning Moncton.

'It's not a physical injury and so sometimes superiors might not fully appreciate what's going on with the patient because they can't see it.'
- Dr. Mark Johnston, psychiatrist

"Sometimes I'll deal with a member who has phenomenal support from his chain of command ... the next fellow that I meet might say, 'They're harassing me, they don't believe that I have a problem, they're checking up on me all the time.'"

Johnston, who practises in Kentville and Halifax, has developed expertise in treating the disorder over more than 13 years of working with the military, including veterans making the transition to civilian life.

His comments come after Mark Clements, a retired RCMP officer in Moncton who has PTSD, was initially told he couldn't receive his 25-year service medal unless he attended an awards ceremony.

The New Brunswick RCMP eventually reversed its decision and agreed to send the medal to Clements, but Clements said the force shouldn't have made it so difficult for him in the first place.

Widespread among first responders

Johnston stressed that support is available through both the public mental health system and from private practitioners once officers are diagnosed.

"We have to expect that PTSD is going to be quite widespread within the RCMP and other first-responder organizations."

Johnston said the RCMP now has a policy that recognizes that PTSD exists, something he calls "a huge step forward" from where things used to be.

But he said the disorder is still difficult to recognize and diagnose, and everyone in the force must agree if change is to occur.

Psychiatrist Dr. Mark Johnston said changing "the hearts and minds" of those who work in all levels of the RCMP when it comes to recognising and treating PTSD will take time.

"It won't help if the very top echelon says, 'Sure, PTSD exists,' but then all the mid-level folks say, 'Well, not with this guy. This guy doesn't have PTSD — I've decided this person isn't sick.'"

Johnston said he has seen senior officers who believe they are qualified to diagnose PTSD.

"It's not a physical injury and so sometimes superiors might not fully appreciate what's going on with the patient because they can't see it ... it's hard to miss a broken leg but with PTSD in some ways it can be hidden," Johnston said.

In an emailed statement, the RCMP said it offers several services to help employees suffering from PTSD and other mental health issues.

"Services include employee assistance services, a peer-to-peer system, health assessments, psychological services, critical incident stress debriefings, mental health training, disability management, supplemental health benefits," the statement said.

The RCMP is also working on offering both classroom and online suicide prevention training for employees who are likely to encounter individuals living with serious mental stress.

Help is available

He said once RCMP officers have retired from the force, many don't realize they can apply to the Department of Veterans Affairs Canada for more assistance.

In a statement, the RCMP said retired RCMP members who receive a Veterans Affairs Canada disability pension may be eligible for additional services.

Johnston said the private mental health system is not as stretched as the public system, an issue at the centre of discussions after veteran Lionel Desmond, who served in Afghanistan and had PTSD, allegedly shot his wife, child and mother in Big Tracadie, N.S., before killing himself.

​"I think about this tragedy that happened up in Tracadie a couple of weeks ago and I really worry that a lot of patients don't understand that they have access to both mental health systems," Johnston said, referring to the private psychological help that's available in addition to the public system.

He said RCMP are generally referred to private mental health practitioners.

RCMP makes progress, but it's slow

While he believes the RCMP is making progress and improving treatment for members, Johnston doesn't think it has happened quickly enough since the force adopted a mental health strategy in 2014.

"I'm optimistic that things are changing," he said. "I just wish they'd speed it up. I wish they'd make more of an effort to make it happen faster because right now people are suffering.

"I think they could make a lot of those changes much sooner if they wanted to."

Johnston wants to see the police force collaborate with the military, which encountered and recognized PTSD earlier and offers better supports.

"The RCMP started this journey a lot later than these other groups and I think that's a big problem.," Johnston said.

Johnston said changing "the hearts and minds" of those who work in all levels of the RCMP will take time and he hopes the force won't be sidetracked by the added cost of treatment.

"It's [can be] so upsetting to those decision makers that they lose sight of the fact that the patient is ultimately ill and they got sick from something that happened on the job, and they need to be taken care of."


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As police gain awareness of PTSD, Mounties see diagnoses doubling

Post by Guest on Mon 19 Dec 2016, 05:12

As police gain awareness of PTSD, Mounties see diagnoses doubling

The Globe and Mail
Published Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016 9:13PM EST
Last updated Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016 9:41PM EST

The number of RCMP officers recognized by the federal government for suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and related conditions has nearly doubled in five years, according to statistics obtained by The Globe and Mail.

Government records obtained under the Access to Information Act indicate that at least 8 per cent of serving police officers within Canada’s largest force have been diagnosed with PTSD and are now getting treatment for it. Similar surges in diagnoses loom for other Canadian police forces, as well as firefighters, paramedics and jail guards, according to police, government and academic sources.

Public-safety work cultures, once surrounded by stoicism and stigma about mental-health issues, are now evolving into environments where people are more encouraged to spot problems and seek help. Emergency responders are increasingly describing how horrific accidents, or being involved in violent brawls and deadly standoffs, have caused them PTSD and spin-off conditions, such as depression, alcoholism or suicidal thoughts.

Despite this, concrete initiatives and hard numbers relating to PTSD problems are a rarity in most public-safety organizations in Canada. “Based on available data, it is estimated that in Canada, between 10 per cent and 35 per cent of first responders will develop PTSD,” Lori MacDonald, a senior Public Safety Canada civil servant, testified to Parliament this past spring.

The RCMP appears to be unique among Canadian agencies in terms of having recourse to some data. Mounties who suffer physical or mental injuries can tap into health clinics and compensation programs run by Veterans Affairs Canada, the same federal department that treats members of the Canadian Forces.

In the military, treating PTSD is a relative priority compared to within policing organizations. The Globe and Mail, which first requested the PTSD numbers related to the RCMP five years ago, recently obtained updated Veterans Affairs Canada figures under the Access to Information Act.

As of March, 2016, there were 1,244 serving members of the RCMP considered clients of Veterans Affairs for PTSD issues. This compares to only 740 serving RCMP members five years before.

On top of this, nearly 2,000 Mounties who have retired or been released from the force are also PTSD clients of Veterans Affairs. This was the case for only about 1,000 officers in 2011.

Increasingly, government officials speak of operational stress injuries (OSIs) instead of PTSD, given how the word “injury” lacks the stigma that a term like “disorder” can have. Though frequently synonymous with PTSD, an operational stress injury can encompass other conditions.

While PTSD still accounts for about 80 per cent of RCMP OSIs, the total encompasses nearly 4,000 serving and released RCMP members who have been treated by Veterans Affairs Canada. Nearly 1,500 are considered still-serving officers, a figure that would amount to about 8 per cent of the uniformed members of the force.

(In a footnote, Veterans Affairs says its “still-serving” metric might be imprecise because RCMP officers don’t always inform the department when they quit the police force.)

Veterans Affairs keeps these numbers because it handles compensation claims. Payment of successful claims, which are known as pensions, can go to serving and released RCMP members, and can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars a month.

“The RCMP has taken a very active role in trying to reduce stigma, increase awareness and make resources available for their membership,” says Nick Carleton, a professor in Saskatchewan who is canvassing emergency responders across Canada about OSIs.

The Mounties are now in the midst of a drive by members to unionize the police force for the first time in the RCMP’s history. Organizers have been pointing out that the rank-and-file officers are stressed because they shoulder heavy workloads compared to other police forces in Canada, and also that individual RCMP officers often patrol remote regions with little or no backup compared to their big-city counterparts.

In Ottawa, however, the police force’s leadership says that PTSD numbers are growing largely because the Mounties have been paying closer attention to the issues in recent years. “Work-related stress and mental illness is a real issue … that the RCMP takes very seriously,” Sergeant Julie Gagnon , a spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed response to questions from The Globe.

“The RCMP does not tolerate the outdated attitude that mental-health injuries are not real, and is countering this attitude with education and awareness,” she said, adding that the Mounties are not any more susceptible to PTSD than any other police force.

Sgt. Gagnon said the RCMP is shifting its own resources to address problems, for example by redirecting some in-house medical professionals from recruitment to focus on existing members. Funding has also been earmarked for disability-management programs including efforts to get better data about the scope of PTSD.

Observers say such problems extend well beyond the RCMP.

Municipal and provincial bureaucracies are often surprised to hear anecdotal evidence about how much the problem has taken root in their own forces, said Tom Stamatakis of the Canadian Police Association, in an interview.

The CPA is an umbrella group for mostly municipal police unions across the country. And, during stark testimony to a parliamentary committee this spring, Mr. Stamatakis said the problems cut across all public-safety professions, including firefighters, paramedics and jail guards.

“Since April, 2014, 77 first responders have taken their own lives,” he testified. He did not provide a breakdown of that figure.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last year appointed Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale with a mandate to come up with a national action plan for PTSD among public-safety professionals. In October, federal MPs on a legislative committee urged the creation of a Canadian Institute for Public Safety Officer Health Research.


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Re: First responders being hit harder than ever by PTSD, and they need help

Post by Newf on Tue 01 Nov 2016, 18:19

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Re: First responders being hit harder than ever by PTSD, and they need help

Post by Newf on Tue 01 Nov 2016, 18:17

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First responders being hit harder than ever by PTSD, and they need help

Post by Guest on Wed 26 Oct 2016, 05:35

First responders being hit harder than ever by PTSD, and they need help
The Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016 4:27PM EDT
Last updated Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016 4:31PM EDT

They are suffering silently, by the thousands. Emergency workers – police officers, paramedics, firefighters, hospital personnel – are afflicted by post-traumatic stress disorder at levels we typically associate with an epidemic.

A recent report in Montreal’s La Presse newspaper provided a glimpse into the problem. It found that roughly 1,500 active duty members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are receiving some form of disability benefit for treatment of the condition, as are another 2,500 or so retired members.

According to federal government documents obtained by La Presse, PTSD cases involving the Mounties have tripled since 2008.

It seems likely the explosion in RCMP cases has to do with PTSD becoming a more common diagnosis – especially as the taboos associated with admitting to mental illness fade away. The same grim uptick in reporting is unfolding in ambulance services, trauma units, police stations and firehouses across Canada. That’s good – it’s essential that people feel more comfortable coming forward.

But the health consequences of PTSD can be calamitous – suicide rates are high – and the resources to deal with the problem are not keeping up with the surging demand. As it stands, the federal and provincial health systems are not equipped to get first responders the help they urgently need.

As federal employees, Mounties can turn to the overburdened Veterans Affairs ministry, which is plagued by delays and inefficiency. Their local and provincial counterparts aren’t even that lucky. They face a patchwork of support programs that vary widely according to region.

Some provinces include PTSD in their workplace injury compensation plans; others don’t. In some places, certain classes of workers, such as nurses, aren’t covered.

Last month, the federal military ombudsman, Gary Walbourne, called for the creation of a national “concierge service” – a one-stop shop for the Department of National Defence’s PTSD sufferers.

It’s a good idea that should spawn imitators across Canada. Emergency workers perform dangerous, harrowing work on society’s behalf, and they are hurting because of it. Governments at all levels have the urgent duty to help them recover.


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