Former RCMP officer Eric Rebiere believes that a Mountie who committed suicide could have been saved if the RCMP had a similar program to VAC’s OSI for its officers, both current and retired, suffering from PTSD. This is not the first time our Mounties have been left swinging in the wind. For years alcoholism has been a rampant problem in this proud force because neither the government nor RCMP commanders have acknowledged the stress RCMP officers endure through their career. Many have PTSD as a result of their service in daily police duties as well as service in combat missions under military attachments. When is this country going to look after its own and its most proud? The following story appeared on GLOBAL NEWS March 8, 2012. Shirlee Engel was the reporter. BONNIE
EXCLUSIVE: RCMP stops plans for program to help officers with PTSD
Just like soldiers, many RCMP officers bear deep psychological scars.
Eric Rebiere is one of those officers. He left the RCMP because of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After tours in Croatia and Kosovo, he came back even worse.
“My wife and I were really having problems and I decided to go on another mission. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. My marriage was straining.”
Rebiere says PTSD made him an angrier person, and he would get upset at trivial things. “It would trigger (me) in an instant… I’ve never been verbally abusive to my family in the past. It was confusing for me – and that wasn’t the real me.”
“The anger sometimes (led) to thoughts of suicide. It’s really debilitating.”
He says his health had deteriorated to the point that he knew he had to quit his job. “I became a liability to my fellow officers and to myself.”
Then he discovered a Canadian Forces-funded program called Operational Stress Injury Social Support (OSISS). Everything started to change for Rebiere, for the better.
“It saved my marriage, it saved my life! Suddenly, I was in a room full of peers who understood what I was coming from because they were going through it themselves.”
The former officer says OSISS took him out of isolation. “It got me out of my attic. And I was socializing again… I didn’t feel judged. It’s peers helping peers.”
“I didn’t trust RCMP Health Services at all. I wanted someone who would tell me the truth.”
Since 2001, OSISS has helped more than 6,500 people deal with PTSD. RCMP officers attend the program unofficially, and many of them want peer support of their own.
In 2011, almost 1,900 RCMP officers were pensioned because they suffered from PTSD. About 500 more received compensation for a different mental health condition.
The RCMP first expressed interest in an-OSISS-type program back in 2003. Then in 2010, the force finally initiated plans for a pilot project that would bring a similar program to its officers and veterans.
But now, Global News has learned plans for such a program have been abandoned.
While the RCMP declined a request for an interview, officials did email Global National‘s Shirlee Engel to confirm “a detailed analysis on the actual financial and human costs associated with Operational Stress Injuries in the RCMP did not take place and therefore the pilot project did not commence.”
The email goes on to say “The RCMP does not currently have plans to pursue this pilot (project) at this time because the organization has in place policies and programs that promote a healthy and safe work environment.”
Dr. Greg Passey of the British Columbia Operational Stress Injury Clinic in Vancouver, says more police officers experience PTSD than soldiers. While peer support doesn’t replace clinical treatment – it’s a crucial part of recovery.
“By the time (officers have) reached the age of 40, they’ve been exposed to about 150 different types of critical incidents – any one of which could cause an operational stress inquiry,” Passey says.
“Something like an OSISS program would provide ex-RCMP members as peer supporters…that would help serving members, as well as all those members who are now retired and do not have any support.”
Rebiere agrees. He doesn’t buy all the excuses about why the program won’t happen, calling it “disgusting and despicable.”
“It’s a load of crap. The OSISS program is easily integrable just simply by hiring former RCMP officers.”
“There are 9,000 disabled RCMP vets out there. It’s a result of their injuries sustained (on the job) in Canada, as well as those who come back overseas from U.N. Missions.”
Passey stresses though that Mounties need their own program. “The types of experiences and exposures that military members have are very different than RCMP.”
Without funding for a valuable program, Rebiere says officers and their families will continue to suffer.
RCMP staff relations representatative Staff Sgt. Mike Casault is one of the few serving members who will speak publicly. A former colleague of his had PTSD and committed suicide. “If we had that program in force when he was a member, there may have been a different result.”
“He may still be with us today.”
Casault says it’s too dangerous to suffer in silence. “They’re self-medicating with alcohol.”
“We may see more people taking own lives… More (officers) going off sick with post-traumatic stress. Eventually, it becomes uncontrollable.”
Rebiere says the RCMP could just model the program after OSISS. “Why recreate the wheel? A program that works so well and so valuable.”
“I’m insulted and I will not stop until this is corrected.”
And as Reibere points out himself, OSISS is a program proven to save lives.
With files from Global National’s Shirlee Engel