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Returning to Work in the RCMP after a Psychological Injury Diagnosis: Realistic Opportunity or Personal Folly?

Dec 18

Certainly one of the more significant challenges for members diagnosed with psychological injury (e.g. PTSD) is consideration of return to work options. This can be especially difficult if organizational conditions precipitated the psychological injury in the first instance. There is also the question and impact of unresolved organizational grievance(s) that may require redress.

In a Work Safe B.C. research report entitled Factors that Predict Return-to-work in Workers with PTSD (Alden, 2012) identified two sets of barriers:

Worker-related barriers comprised:
a) Threat appraisals, i.e., viewing oneself as fragile and the workplace as dangerous;
b) Anxiety symptom severity;
c) Presence of comorbid depression, pain, and anger.  (Alden, 2012, p.1)

Workplace barriers comprised:
a) Psychologically demanding work environments, i.e., jobs that required workers to routinely confront potentially traumatic events (e.g., paramedics), and
b) Workplace conflict, i.e., conflictual relationships with coworkers, supervisors and the employer. (Alden, 2012, p.1)

While the research study had several limitations those involved in the study reported:

  • The majority of participants listed symptoms of anxiety as the primary (37.5%) or secondary barrier in returning to work.
  •  Physical disability was also frequently listed as a primary barrier (37.5%), followed by symptoms of depression (12.5%).
  •  Other barriers listed as secondary included depression and concerns about workplace reactions (e.g., stigma, employer expecting complete recovery.)  (Alden 2012, p.25-26).

Given the current RCMP organizational context what is the measure of expectation among those members of the RCMP diagnosed with a psychological injury of successfully re-integrating back into the organization? Does the RCMP have the proper mechanisms and environment conducive to re-integration? What does the RCMP need to do to successfully re-integrate you back into the organization?

Given the current Government of Canada’s position and action with respect to Afghanistan war veterans (e.g. lump some cash payouts) what does this bode for our members? What does this mean for those facing potential medical discharge?

Bob Perry

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13 Comments
  1. Anonymous permalink

    I am in the process of reintegration. The RCMP have called it accommodating me but I have to drive 240km/s a day to be accommodated. I was also advised that I would be sent into a more suitable and less volatile job, but that has involved completely retraining and my stress levels are through the roof. Do I feel fragile?….yes but I’m hoping that will pass as I become more competent again. Do I feel anxious?… all the time. My short term memory is shot to bits. I am trying to get that part of my brain functioning again. I had to really focus during training and not be too hard on myself or panic when I sometimes lost track in class. I used to be a straight A. Now I’m struggling to pass everything. The stress and frustration of that should not be underestimated. So I have been driving for 4 hours a day getting up at 4 am to be at work at 7 driving home for 6 and in bed again by 8. Am also having to work weekends to cover the costs of my gas. The RCMP refused to help with that. So am in effect working 7 days a week. I am in an exhausted haze. I am not sure if it will wear off so that I can actually focus on my work or not. I hope it does because I really want to be good at my job again. I want to make a full recovery. My PTSD symptoms struck me on day 2 of my return, but I was able to haul myself in and manage them and I seem to be doing okay. I like the section I am working on. I like my colleagues. My boss has been discreet and considerate. I want it to work out. How realistic is it that I can keep this up I ask myself? I think attitude has a lot to do with it and I try to work on that every day. My advice to anyone returning is “do your homework”. Find out as much as you can about where you are going and what you are going to be doing. Then don’t hold on too tight to it. Hold on tight to yourself and your own wellness and stability instead. I have found it helpful to live a day at a time. I said initially maybe I’ll last a week and every time I pass a small milestone I tell myself that I am enough. I have also found it helpful to keep my second job as it has helped to ground me by spending time with people on the weekends who really don’t care whether I work for the RCMP or not. I believe the RCMP do have the mechanisms to get us back to work, I believe that some effort is being made, but ultimately it is likely to be the attitude of the section that you return to. If you’re returned to somewhere hostile forget it. I can see that anger and resentment would be a problem for some, but I realized that if I didn’t let it go I would never stand a chance, so I made a conscious decision to drop it and reinvest the energy into recovering and salvaging what I can.

    • Anonymous permalink

      It doesn’t sound like the force has been accommodating at all. I think they would put you in something more sedentary for awhile and let you integrate back into operations gradually. I get the sense the anger/resentment don’t fully go away either, especially if it isn’t addressed. Good that you reinvest your energies in other things but I’m not convinced the force is helping you at all. I’d get the ‘duty to accomodate’ in ‘WRITING’ and not by their ‘word’. 240km a day seems long, but having to work 7 days a week to pay for fuel to get to work for the initial 5 days (mon-fri) seems odd. I don’t think the force is putting their best ‘foot forward’ for you and suspect if they drop you back into a bad situation you’ll be on ODS again. This is not new of what I’ve heard the force does with members.

    • Bob Perry permalink

      Thank you for your very insightful post. You have shown and continue to show great courage in your wellness journey and my sincere wishes that this journey goes on uneventful and successful.

      • Anon. permalink

        Thanks Bob. As an update, and it has been now a couple of months am making good progress. My ability to concentrate is improving daily, the stability of mood again improving, retention of information improving. I think it’s important to say that it’s not going to be easy though. After the 1st month I thought that I was going backwards and to anyone who is going to return be prepared for this to be a bit like snakes and ladders for a bit, try to stay calm about it. Stamina to do a full days work takes time to return after being off. On a day off I’d sleep the full day and night sometimes. You’re gonna need more sleep than a regular person and be mindful of your health. Do everything to give yourself the best chance and make sure that your partner if you have one is on board. But I’m glad I returned. Even at this point if it doesn’t work out I will handle it better I think because at least I gave it a shot. Do I walk with a limp (metaphorically speaking) perhaps, but I’m walking all the same and hope is a powerful healer. But important to say that I was signed well enough to go back, I wanted to go back and everyone was in agreement. For others I know the circumstances are different and no disrespect to anyone who feels that it’s not for them.

    • Buck permalink

      Accommodating is kinda like the Mission, Vision & Values statement of the Force. It looks good on paper and is only meant to accommodate and benefit the Force. Sad, but true.

  2. Buck permalink

    Folly in the extreme, through many years of personal experience trying to assist members in getting back to work and be treated respectfully as per the Canada Labour Code & Canadian Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (which Health Services, Human Resources & ALL senior management ignore and deny the existence of. Once you are a target, you remain a target of the snakes. There needs to be competent, accountable, independent oversight of these Charlatans who do harm, waste tax dollars and only about their own worthless skins. Member’s can hope and pray they will not become a target, but as the heading states, that would be pure Folly.

    • Anonymous permalink

      completely agree, all summed up in a nutshell Aught Buck.

  3. Anonymous permalink

    This dialogue started from a posting from Bob Perry. It posed the question of whether returning to work was realistic opportunity or personal folly. I post my own experiences of returning in response. Some of it has been negative, some positive. I feel from a personal perspective I am doing well. It amazes me that there are comments such as “wake up and smell the roses” and “they don’t want you in the organization at all”, that seems like a very broad statement and I would like to respond to it. Firstly I had to drive because I live in a very rural area and a deployment and relocation paid was offered but it would have meant disrupting my family. In this situation I had to put my family first. I wanted to make sure that the job was working out from a health perspective before considering uprooting. Secondly, I am not exactly bold over with other options. I am well enough to go back to work so I have. In life we have to evolve or we don’t survive and if there is a chance to be part of the solution I would rather that then sit around feeling bitter and resentful. of course I could dig my heels in and say NO, this ain’t fair, but who is this serving when what I really want is to go back to work. You speak as though I haven’t been through harassment as though I haven’t considered that I will go through it again. I have and probably will. That disgusts me but I would also be disgusted with myself if I just gave up and walked away. I could also experience this outside of the RCMP. Comments like “can you not figure this out” are also not constructive, don’t worry I have had plenty of time to figure this out. But if I spent my entire life worrying about what other people thought I’d never leave my home. If you have some helpful advice and encouragement to offer to me personally by all means offer it constructively but please don’t rip the ass off someone who is trying to go out there and put food on the table. Life isn’t perfect. Never was, never will be. If you can think of a better solution I’m all over it.

    • Catherine permalink

      Well done. Very well done.

      Take care of yourself and continue to put the food on the table.

      Hey, are you sure life isn’t perfect? 🙂

      • Anonymous permalink

        I thought having ptsd, being harassed and career destroyed was perfection? 🙂 Just kidding Cat’.

  4. Anonymous permalink

    Umm….anonymous, I’m just another poster on this tag, but I think you’re drawing a lot of conclusions ‘assuming’ this individual will ‘kill someone driving back-and-forth 240km/day’. Lots of people in various professions drive ‘exhausted’ or ‘tired’ and most can keep an eye on the road. Each way is just over a 1-hour drive. He asked for ‘constructive’ comments, not derisive comments.

    Perhaps we wouldn’t want to see you on foot patrol as a cop, if the best you can project is belittling other people, as you’ve demonstrated on this sight. Based on this person’s tact and unfortunate situation, I trust him more as a passenger in his vehicle even when he’s tired, than I do with your ability to put a lid on your condescension which is a much easier task. I’m not trying to be a prick but you might want to consider what you can say to support this person.

    My two cents.

    • Anonymous permalink

      I agree, less condescension and more support.

  5. Buck permalink

    P.M.’s New Years Resolution to rally the faithful & knowing members of the RCMP & CF will understand.

    “I’ll balance the budget, even if it kills you!”

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