About the Study
“Posttraumatic stress injuries, and other operational stress injuries, disproportionately affect police officers – people who work tirelessly to keep our communities safe and secure. We are committed to providing RCMP officers with the mental health support they need to recover. The results of this Study will help us better understand the problem and provide better support.”
– Hon. Ralph Goodale, Former Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Every day, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers deal with the immense pressures and stresses associated with their profession. Officers are faced with highly stressful, often traumatic scenarios. For many years, the long-term impact of dealing with such scenarios was considered an unavoidable “part of the job”. Today we know better. Today we understand that Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other related mental health injuries, often referred to as Operational Stress Injuries (OSIs) or Posttraumatic Stress Injuries (PTSI), can take an incredible toll on the mental health of these dedicated professionals. A recent study (Carleton, Afifi, Turner, et. al, 2018) found that nearly a third of RCMP officer participants reported experiencing symptoms consistent with PTSD and approximately half reported experiencing other potentially problematic symptoms.
According to Health Canada records (2016), 40% of the calls to Employee Assistance Services were linked to psychological concerns. There were 1,467 RCMP members receiving Veterans Affairs Canada pensions for OSIs, which is triple the number reported in 2008 and represents 6.5% of the force. PTSD was and is the number one medical condition of serving members receiving the pension.
Across Canada, several thousand members of the RCMP are in receipt of a Disability Pension for a psychiatric disability (including PTSD). While the mental health costs have been outlined above, there are also monetary costs. Health Canada (2016) records indicate that approximately 1.4 million dollars was spent in 2015-2016 for members attending OSI clinics. Almost 40% (288) of off-duty sick members reported being off work due to mental illness. At an average salary of $90,000, this represents approximately 2.9 million dollars per year.
While the monetary costs for officers on disability are high, the human costs are even more important. As a result of these statistics, a contract was awarded to the University of Regina to conduct a study on the effects of policing on the mental health of RCMP officers.
The research project will be led by Dr. R. Nicholas Carleton, a clinician at the University of Regina who is also a professor in psychology and is an internationally recognized research leader in mental health for first responders and other public safety personnel.
Objective and Outcomes
The goal of the RCMP Longitudinal PTSD Study is to help identify problematic stress very early, provide evidence-based recommendations, and facilitate early access to effective mental health care. Ideally, the ultimate outcome from this Study will be the development of an evidence-based training system for mental health that reduces risk, increases resilience, and enhances treatment efforts if treatment becomes necessary.
Our vision is to help produce the healthiest, most resilient officers ever trained – anywhere.
We hope cadets will welcome the opportunity to get involved and advance their own mental health and the health of the force in years to come. We also hope that they will find this an interesting, innovative project, from which they will learn about mental health.
Additional Expected Outcomes
In addition to early detection, reduced risk, and enhanced treatment of PTSD and OSIs, this Study is designed to:
- Develop and improve lifestyle choices, coping skills, and organizational supports for increasing the ability to face high stress situations and minimize harmful health and social side effects;
- Reduce stigma associated with mental health concerns by encouraging participants to actively and regularly engage with their own mental health;
- Enhance capacity for officers interacting with civilians who have mental health concerns
- Improve member morale and further bolster public perception of the RCMP; and
- Inform public safety personnel nationally and internationally, with results designed to support as to best practices related to psychological training and mental health.
“The University of Regina is proud to support the RCMP Longitudinal PTSD Study, which is poised to benefit our past, present, and future RCMP members, as well as the many diverse public safety personnel in Canada and around the world who work to protect and serve our communities.”
-Dr. Jeff Keshen, President of the U of R
This innovative and unique multi-year study will investigate Operational Stress Injuries (OSIs) and Posttraumatic Stress Injuries (PTSIs), including but not limited to, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), among RCMP officers. The Study will also assess the efficacy of a new skills-based training program designed specifically for the RCMP to help them better understand, manage, and maintain mental health.
The Study is being led by researchers in the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts, at the University of Regina; however, the research team includes the input of diverse academic leaders from across Canada and beyond. For a complete listing of participating researchers and team members, please click here.
The leading researcher for the Study is Dr. R. Nicholas Carleton, PhD. Dr. Carleton is a Professor at the University of Regina, and Scientific Director at the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT).
Dr. Gregory Krätzig, Director of Research and Strategic Partnerships, RCMP, Depot Division is the Technical Authority leading the Study for the RCMP, and Sylvie Châteauvert, Director General, Occupational Health and Safety Branch, RCMP, is the Project Authority.
The RCMP has contracted the University of Regina, through Public Safety and Procurement Canada, to undertake the research project with the RCMP Depot Division. The RCMP is connecting cadets with the research team at the University of Regina to support the implementation of the Study.
The research results from this Study will provide the RCMP with valuable information for the development of long-term strategies that will help to improve mental health through more informed proactive steps, better understanding of individual and team resilience, and enhanced treatment efforts, all of which is intended to improve the psychological health and safety of RCMP members. Eventually, the goal is to use the Study results as a basis for strategies for other public safety personnel, all those who serve, and ultimately all Canadians.
Participation in the RCMP Longitudinal PTSD Study will take place over a period of 5 and a half years, beginning on the very first day of training, through to graduation, deployment to the first posting, and through the first 5 years of the member’s career. The Study will include the voluntary participation of approximately 960 cadets. Participating cadets will take part in one of the following two separate teams: Team 1 (~480 cadets) and Team 2 (~480 cadets).
All participants will be asked to install and use a special mobile app, known as RCMP Study/Étude GRC on their Smartphone in order to complete and submit self-report data on a daily and monthly basis. This is expected to take approximately one minute per day and approximately 30 minutes once a month respectively. Cadets will complete their requirements throughout the training program. The RCMP will allow members time on duty to complete the requirements.
All participants will be asked to take part in a confidential Full Assessment. This involves completing a ~90-minute online computer survey followed by a ~60-minute interview with a qualified psychologist or a supervised clinical trainee. The Full Assessments will be conducted at the beginning of the Study, immediately prior to deployment, and then annually thereafter until the Study is completed. Results from the self-report questionnaires and clinical interviews will not be used to evaluate fitness to be an RCMP Cadet or RCMP Member at any time.
As part of the Study design and in order to assess the benefits of a specially developed mental health training program, there are some differences in the expectations between the two (2) teams. Team 1 and Team 2 participants will be asked to use the wearable technology provided by the University of Regina, which includes a biometric shirt with data encoder and an Apple Watch Series 4. This technology will track physiological data including heart rate, breathing, and physical activity. These participants will then be asked to upload that data. Team 1 and Team 2 participants will also be provided with the iPhone XR to facilitate the collection and entry of data. For more information on this technology, click here.
The Study is designed to provide a skills-based intervention program, specifically adapted for the RCMP, to Team 2 as an integrated part of their training. The researchers will then monitor the impact of the adapted training on their mental health over the five years following graduation. The researchers can then compare the mental health of RCMP officers who received the standard training program to the mental health of RCMP officers who received the adapted training program. The comparison is critical to ensure we can confidently know what beneficial impact, if any, the adapted training program has on RCMP mental health.