The RNC shares retired Supt. Calvin Barrett’s concern (“Please — protect our protectors,” letter to The Telegram, Sept. 30) for the health and wellness of first responders. There is widespread recognition that first responders are at risk of developing an operational stress injury (OSI) due to cumulative stress and/or single incident psychological trauma. The RNC has therefore, over the years, introduced a number of initiatives to prevent and address psychological injuries amongst our employees.
Since the early ‘90s, the RNC has been offering critical incident stress debriefing (CISD) to its employees who have been exposed to traumatic stress. During this period, the RNC also signed on to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) offered through the Public Service Commission, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Throughout the ‘90s and 2000s, CISD and EAP had been the cornerstone of the RNC’s mental health program. However, in 2012, EAP saw an increase in the number of RNC employees presenting with OSI. The common theme resulting from those referrals was that the RNC could do more in the way of educating its employees on the signs, symptoms and prevention of OSI. As well, around the same time period, studies concluded that police agencies in general had to do more to prevent OSI by educating their employees about OSI signs and symptoms.
Recognizing the need to do more, the RNC worked with the EAP, while referencing reports regarding psychological health and safety in the workplace. The result was the implementation of more enhanced mental health training provided by the Mental Health Commission of Canada:
• Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) — adopted in 2014, the RNC has several facilitators trained to deliver MHFA. This program trains the recipient to recognize the signs and symptoms of a mental health issue, provide initial assistance and get the person to professional help.
• Road to Mental Readiness (R2MR) — R2MR training focuses on reducing stigma and building resilience in employees. In February of 2016, several RNC employees were trained as R2MR facilitators.
CISD continues to be the cornerstone for OSI prevention, however, it has been recently enhanced through the use of principles of Psychological First Aid (PFA). Different from MHFA, PFA focuses heavily on educating those receiving the stress debriefing on recognizing OSI signs and symptoms and where to go for help if needed.
Mental health training/education in the RNC begins during the police cadet training year. Cadets receive the following training:
• Changing Minds: a program of the Canadian Mental Health Association-NL, it provides tools to the recipient to help recognize mental health issues.
• Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST): proven to significantly reduce instances of suicide. ASIST provides intervention skills and helps build a community suicide prevention network.
• Mental Health First Aid
• Road to Mental Readiness
• Critical Incident Stress Management
In closing, I would like to strongly reiterate that the RNC is committed to supporting the health and wellness of our employees. Currently, we are finalizing a comprehensive mental health strategy designed to help educate all employees of the RNC and to provide resources to help individuals in need of support.
Chief Joe Boland
Royal Newfoundland Constabulary