Now More Than Ever, Mental Health Supports are Critical

Canada NewsWire

OTTAWA, ON, Jan. 27, 2021/CNW/ – Ahead of Bell Let’s Talk Day 2021tomorrow, and against the backdrop of a particularly tough past year for our individual and collective mental health, the National Police Federation is taking this opportunity to remind our Members, and Canadians in general, to seek out mental health and wellness supports.

National Police Federation logo (CNW Group/National Police Federation)

Across the country, and against the ongoing prevalence of COVID-19 measures, front-line RCMP Members continue to deal with new and unforeseen challenges and risks. Years of cuts to front-line services by governments of all levels, political stripes, and jurisdictions have left police officers under-resourced across Canada as colleagues face illness, exposure, isolation, and quarantine requirements. Members in remote posts have had to forego leaves and transfers, leaving them isolated and without real time off for longer periods than expected or recommended.

“Being a police officer during a global pandemic has meant already difficult work has become even more demanding in highly complex situations. RCMP Members across the country are often asked to play roles well beyond a policing mandate, and that’s taking a real toll on their mental health,” said Dr. Nick Carleton, Professor of Psychology at the University of Regina, a renowned specialist in this area of study. “As the research shows us, the current levels of stress and repeated exposures to potentially psychologically traumatic events is simply unsustainable. RCMP officers need the resources and support that will enable to them to be healthy and fully serve others,” he added.

For years, significant cutbacks and wage freezes along with increased demand for services have eroded staffing levels, recruitment, training and other resources, and – most importantly – the morale and well-being of RCMP Members.

“Day in, day out, our Members are asked to do more, with less and less resources, and that’s just unsustainable physically, emotionally, and mentally,” said Brian Sauvé, President of the National Police Federation. “If we’ve learned anything about ourselves over the past year, it’s that it’s OK not to be OK – we don’t have to suck it up and soldier on, and that’s why support is critical, and in some cases, lifesaving,” he added.

Mental health issues create challenges from both a public and internal lens. In 2019, RCMP Members responded to 151,024 wellbeing checks and mental health-related calls from the public. That number was up 6.75% from 2018, which saw 141,442 calls.

Within the Force, over a five-year period between 2014 and 2019, there was a 69% increase in RCMP Members seeking mental health supports. While this number may seem alarmingly high, it’s a positive sign that Members are seeking help.

2017 study  of over 5,800 public safety personnel in Canada, the latest data of its kind available in Canada – which included correctional workers, communicators, firefighters, paramedics, and police officers – found that RCMP Members are more likely to report current symptoms of a mental disorder than municipal/provincial police and most other public safety personnel. The study also found that:

  • women were more likely to report screening positive than men;
  • younger participants or fewer years of service were less likely to report symptoms;
  • single, separated/divorced/widowed Members were more likely to report symptoms than married/common law;
  • those in Eastern Canada were less likely to report than in Western Canada; and
  • a university degree meant you were less likely to report than those with only a high school education.

2020 study, however, examined the links between suicide and mental health issues among police and their civilian police colleagues. Across both studies and anecdotally, our frontline Members are clearly carrying all sorts of extra loads that are impacting their mental health, and this must be addressed.

Finally, below are two video stories about RCMP Members who suffer from PTSD:

Constable Chad Gravelle

Constable Nancy Saggar

About the National Police Federation:

The National Police Federation (NPF) was certified to represent ~20,000 front-line RCMP Members serving across Canada and internationally in the summer of 2019, and its elected national Board of Directors confirmed in early 2020. The NPF is the largest police labour relations organization in Canada; the second largest in North America and is the first independent national association to represent RCMP Members.

The NPF is focused on improving public safety in Canada by negotiating the first-ever Collective Agreement for RCMP officers, and on increasing resources, equipment, training, and other supports for our Members who have been under-funded for far too long. Better resourcing and supports for the RCMP will enhance community safety and livability in the communities we serve, large and small, across Canada.

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