Police officers often encounter difficult and sometimes traumatic situations as part of their day-to-day work. This can result in an operational stress injury which is any persistent psychological difficulty resulting from combat, law enforcement or other operational and service-related duties. Operational stress injuries include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders, depression, substance use disorders, and even suicide. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) says the annual cost of officers being unable to work is $70 million and of those 38 percent are on long-term sick leave as a result of mental health issues. In the wake of stories from officers who have experienced operational stress including PTSD, the RCMP has release a new five-year Mental Health Strategy to address this issue. The strategy includes five key areas of focus:
- Promote positive mental health by helping employees to maintain and/or improve their psychological health
- Educate employees and managers about mental health issues and eliminate the stigma associated with them within the RCMP
- Prevent psychological risks such as negative work environments, management practices and/or organizational dimensions where possible by making the appropriate changes.
- Providing the appropriate information and training for managers and supervisors in order to detect and intervene early when employees are experiencing mental health issues.
- Adopt a continuous improvement approach where the RCMP’s psychological health and safety performance is measured as part of the annual management review process and in accordance with the Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace Standard developed by the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
Although this is a positive step and it is encouraging to see that the RCMP leadership is taking on the issue of mental health, some critics point out that no additional funding has been announced to implement the strategy. Further, some are calling for a more details on next steps and how the RCMP plans to measure and evaluate the outcomes of this initiative.
To read the full RCMP Mental Health Strategy, visit the RCMP website.