Cops criticize RCMP for how it handles members with PTSD
Don Matheson is a retired RCMP officer who has never shied away from critiquing the police force.
On Monday, he focused his attention on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) — alleging that the RCMP is not taking care of members who suffer from the condition.
“We’ve had 37 members commit suicide in the last five-and-a-half years. The oldest one is 55,” he said.
Matheson was joined by several retired and active police officers in front of the Kelowna detachment on Monday.
Cpl. Chris Williams was among them.
He was first diagnosed with PTSD in 1998 when he was shot at twice in a five-month span. He had been working with the mental illness up until recently when he checked himself into an extensive treatment program.
“It’s been a difficult road with the RCMP. First of all, I got myself in a two-month treatment program in Ontario. I had to do the legwork for that myself. I’ve been seeing a psychologist regularly since 1998 but I’ve had many difficulties with the RCMP more recently in paying for my psychologist and I’ve been paying for that out of pocket,” Williams said.
Dr. John Carmichael specializes in treating police officers who suffer from PTSD.
He estimated that 30 per cent, or one in three RCMP officers suffers from PTSD, though he feels the actual number could be higher.
“It does not include those who hit the bottle. It does not include those who go off-duty. It does not include those who become ‘slugs’ — that is to say those in uniform but they hide. It doesn’t include those promoted to management so they don’t have to deal with real stuff anymore. So that number is probably an under estimate,” Carmichael said.
There were nearly 250 new disability claims filed within the RCMP last year, according to the force’s figures — nearly half of them were for mental health issues.
Meanwhile, Cpl. Williams admitted that he’s expecting backlash from his bosses for speaking out against the RCMP, but is ready to face the music.
“I’m prepared to endure whatever the RCMP determines they want to bring my way,” he said.
“I’m not doing this for myself, I’m doing this for all members that are out there suffering.”