(Canadian OH&S News) — The RCMP has developed a five-year mental health strategy to improve the awareness and use of its existing policies, programs and services.
The strategy, announced on May 21, focuses on five key areas: promotion; education; prevention; early detection and intervention; and continuous improvement. There are three strategic goals: eliminate stigma associated with psychological health problems within the RCMP; take proactive steps to help employees maintain or improve psychological health; and continually improve the management and review of psychological health and safety programs and services.
“For our employees involved in operational policing, the reality is that it is a highly dangerous profession and exposes them to potentially stressful and traumatic situations,” the RCMP said in a statement, adding that a recent audit of long-term sick leave revealed that about 38 per cent of off-duty members cited mental health as the reason. “Police officers are expected to be tough, and traditionally, it was just part of the culture to not talk about how the job may be affecting you. There is now a greater acknowledgement that RCMP officers are only human.”
The statement noted that the RCMP is currently putting in place a new disability management structure that would mandate and facilitate intervention within the first few days of an injury — whether psychological or physical. The organization already has some prevention activities in place, including the mandatory Respectful Workplace course — a course that helps ensure that employees have the knowledge necessary to contribute to a safe and respectful workplace — and the Workplace Reporting System — a centralized way for employees to report workplace issues if they are unsure of where to go or when established reporting methods are not appropriate or possible.
As part of its second strategic goal (helping employees maintain or improve psychological health), the RCMP points to early detection and intervention as key areas. “Research has shown that individuals with psychological distress or mild dysfunction have the ability to cope with their psychological problems — in the early stages — when they are equipped with the resources to do so,” the statement said. “They achieve even more success in overcoming their psychological problems when they receive coaching and support from health care providers, employee assistance services, family or peers.”
Lastly, the RCMP will conduct an annual management review process to measure its psychological health and safety performance. To continuously improve, the organization said in the statement that it would design a psychological health and safety performance monitoring system to obtain qualitative and quantitative measurements of the psychological health and safety of the organization (including promotion, education, prevention, early detection and intervention efforts) and organizational conformance to the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace standard.
The results of this evaluation will allow for an annual management review process that will lead to opportunities for improvement and for a review and update of the organizational policies and procedures, among other items.
To view the RCMP’s mental health strategy, visit www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/fam/strat-eng.htm.