Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Mounties Missing Mark on Mental Health Programs, Auditor General Says

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Mounties Missing Mark on Mental Health Programs, Auditor General Says

Article excerpt

RCMP mental health support ailing: auditor

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OTTAWA - The RCMP is failing to meet the mental health needs of its members due to a lack of resources, poor monitoring and meagre support from supervisors, says the federal spending watchdog.

While the Mounties were among the first federal organizations to introduce a mental health strategy, they did not make its full implementation a priority, auditor general Michael Ferguson says in a report tabled Tuesday.

Some RCMP members even told the auditor that coming forward with mental health concerns led to reprisals from bosses.

The findings come one day after a pair of sharply worded federal reviews on harassment in the RCMP called for greater civilian oversight and expertise to ensure the national police force is a healthy and respectful employer.

Ferguson's report says that although more than half of members received easy and timely access to the mental health they needed, one in six members did not. In more than one-quarter of cases, the RCMP did not even have records that would allow the auditor to assess whether members got the help they required.

In addition, supervisors and health services staff didn't properly support members returning to duties from mental health sick leave, the auditor says. One in five members who sought services did not resume work or was discharged.

"These findings matter because the RCMP is only as strong as its members," the report says.

Festering mental health issues can lead to increased absenteeism, workplace conflict, high turnover, low productivity and increased use of disability and health benefits, the auditor notes.

"Ultimately, members' poor mental health affects the RCMP's capacity to serve and protect Canadians."

RCMP management agreed with the auditor's recommendations to help fulfil the force's mental health strategy.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the police force had already taken steps to address some of the recommendations. In addition, he noted the government is working on a co-ordinated strategy on post-traumatic stress injuries.

The opposition New Democrats blamed the government for failing to address the mental health needs of RCMP members, calling it a disgrace. …

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