Nova Scotia

RCMP criticized for lack of post-traumatic stress support

Past and present RCMP officers in Nova Scotia say the force needs to do more to deal with the growing problem of post-traumatic stress disorder within its ranks.

Number of RCMP on disability for PTSD more than doubled in Atlantic region since 2007

Cathy Mansley, a constable with the Tantallon detachment of the RCMP, says her post-traumatic stress was not taking seriously by the force. (CBC)

Past and present RCMP officers in Nova Scotia say the force needs to do more to deal with the growing problem of post-traumatic stress disorder within its ranks.

All of the nightmares I have are due to work-related incidents. The plane crashes, people trying to kill me ... and it's just the same over and over again.- Const. Cathy Mansley

Part of the problem, say some, is many officers are afraid to come forward.

The number of current RCMP members and RCMP veterans receiving disability pensions due to mental illness has almost doubled in the last five years across the country. Nearly 75 per cent of those cases are due to PTSD.

Next to Western Canada, the numbers in Atlantic region are growing the fastest. An average of 45 more members are leaving the force per year in each of the last five, citing mental illness as the reason.

Cathy Mansley, a constable with the Tantallon detachment of the RCMP, said her first 13 years with the force were good. Though she admitted there were some stressful times, including dealing with the Swissair Flight 111 tragedy.

She said the final straw was a sudden death she responded to in Musquodoboit Harbour in 2009. The next morning she showed up to her detachment, distraught and crying. She had also been drinking while she was off duty.

"The members saw me in the office and came to me and said, ‘Cathy, what's wrong?’ And I told them that I was upset about the sudden death. I told them that I couldn't sleep and that I really felt that I needed to talk to somebody,” she said.

“The members called management and told them about the situation and management told them to drop me off at home and get me to call a good friend and have them come over to stay with me. So, basically, what they did was send me right back to the place I'd come from, looking for help."

Mansley was charged twice with alcohol related offences. She's now suspended from the force.

She blames it all on PTSD and the RCMP for not taking it seriously.

"Because all of the nightmares I have are due to work-related incidents. The plane crashes, people trying to kill me, me dealing with death — and it's just the same theme over and over again," said Mansley.

She said she saw an RCMP psychologist, but it was a doctor outside the force that finally diagnosed her.

PTSD cases within RCMP rising

The number of RCMP on disability for the disorder has more than doubled in the Atlantic region since 2007 to 418.

Murray Brown is a retired staff sergeant who also suffers from PTSD. He has dedicated his life helping others get help.

“It's as simple as this: I believe my organization should identify post-traumatic stress disorder and other occupational stress injuries as an issue that needs some concentration. It needs some proactive messaging, training, to allow senior [non-commissioned officers], detachment commanders and others, to identify people who are having difficulty based on coming back from a suicide, or from a multiple-fatality car accident or any number of events,” he said.

Brown said officers are reluctant to come forward because they're afraid of getting labelled. They're afraid of looking like they're trying to rip off the system. Afterall, the image is that Mounties are strong and invincible.

“My organization, in my opinion, does not understand the complexity of issues like post-traumatic stress,” he said.

High-ranking RCMP members insist the organization been addressing the issue. But Assistant commissioner Gilles Moreau admits there's more work to do to change the culture inside the force so more officers feel comfortable coming forward.

CBC News has spoken to more than a dozen RCMP members and veterans suffering from PTSD and occupational stress injuries, as well as three spouses who have lost their husbands to suicide.

As for Mansley, her future is still up in the air. She remains suspended, but must sign-in every Monday to Friday at the Tantallon detachment.

Her case is still being reviewed internally.

Mansley has also filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission because of the way she's been treated.

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