Dealing with mental health issues needs to start early in policing careers and continue throughout, says the recently retired commanding officer of RCMP in New Brunswick.

Roger Brown, who retired in June, was assistant commissioner of the RCMP in New Brunswick in June 2014 when five officers were shot, and three died.

He will be speaking at a Canadian Police Knowledge Network conference in Charlottetown this week.

Brown told CBC Radio's Island Morning that dealing with the aftermath of the shooting — its effects on the police officers under his command, their families, and himself — was one of the biggest challenges of his career.

"I found myself in the same situation I was trying to encourage others to get out of. In other words, 'I'm fine. Everything is good,'" said Brown.

A change in culture

It was more than a year after the shootings that Brown sought counselling for himself, and realized he had to deal with an accumulation of traumatic incidents from a 30-year career.

Roger Brown, former N.B. RCMP CO

More than a year passed after the Moncton shootings before he sought help for himself, says Roger Brown. (CBC)

"The old culture in policing was just, toughen up. Toughen up doesn't cut it anymore," he said.

"I need, myself and others, need to look now towards the newest members that are joining, and we need to be very open from the newest member that joins any police organization or any first responder group that this is part of the culture. You need to talk about it. You need to address it."

Brown said the RCMP has developed a strong policy for dealing with mental health issues, but there is still a big challenge in implementing it.

With files from Island Morning