Behind prison walls: Correctional officers speak out about PTSD in new documentary
Working On The Edge shown to MPs on Parliament Hill Tuesday in bid for national funding
A new documentary about the day-to-day reality of correctional officers working in Canadian prisons was shown to members of Parliament on Tuesday to highlight the risks of the job and call for more funding to support officers with PTSD.
Eric Enger, one of the officers involved with Working On The Edge, works at the Pacific Institution and Regional Treatment Centre in Abbotsford, B.C.
There is not enough public awareness about what goes on behind prison walls, Enger told CBC host of On The Coast Stephen Quinn.
"We are kind of out of sight, out of mind," Enger said. "Most of the time, [television shows] glorify the inmates and don't really show how overwhelming it gets for the officer on a day-to-day basis."
The documentary, produced by the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, depicts reenactments of violence commonly seen in prisons and features interviews with officers about their experiences.
On the front lines
Correctional officers deal with everything from inmate self-harm to attacks against others to riots, but there is not enough support from the federal or provincial government for them, according to Enger.
"We are trying to get across that we pretty much do all three jobs that the police, the paramedics and the fire department do," he said.
The difference though, Enger said, is a lack of support for officers struggling with burnout or PTSD. Only two provinces in Canada currently recognize correctional officers as primary responders.
"The idea is to get a standard across the country where there will actually be funding for some form of support for people with PTSD," Enger said.
- Researchers find significantly higher rate of mental disorders among first responders
- PTSD legislation inconsistent for first responders across Canada
Enger, who has worked as a correctional officer for 16 years, was diagnosed with PTSD in 2014. It took six years to get a diagnosis, he said, and he wants to not only see more support for officers — but also a speedier response.
"I'm pretty burnt out but I'm coping," he said. "Some quit, some burn out, we've had some suicides. Every individual is different."
Enger said the documentary has received a positive response from the MPs who have seen it so far and he hopes it will make a difference in the union's request for funding.
To listen to the full interview, click on the audio link below:
With files from On The Coast.