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

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

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

GLOBE EDITORIAL
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.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/editorials/first-responders-being-hit-harder-than-ever-by-ptsd-and-they-need-help/article32518958/
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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

http://theindependent.ca/2016/10/29/rcmps-lead-officer-on-muskrat-falls-deceased/
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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

https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2016/03/17/rcmp-member-takes-own-life-near-parliament-hill.html
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As police gain awareness of PTSD, Mounties see diagnoses doubling

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

As police gain awareness of PTSD, Mounties see diagnoses doubling

COLIN FREEZE
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.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/as-police-gain-awareness-of-ptsd-mounties-see-diagnoses-doubling/article33360812/
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Psychiatrist says PTSD treatment for Mounties improving, but not fast enough

Post by Trooper 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."

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/mark-johnston-rcmp-ptsd-1.3934095
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