OPP criticized over post-traumatic stress disorder

Oct 25, 2012 | News

Marin suggests the Ontario Provincial Police make big changes in how it deals with post-traumatic stress disorder. COURTESY OMBUDSMAN ONTARIO

By Jessy Bains

The Ontario Provincial Police is not doing nearly enough to tackle post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a scathing report by Ontario Ombudsmen Andre Marin.

“Protection of the psychological welfare of police officers is a systematic issue calling for a systematic solution,” Marin said in a press release on Wednesday.

“The officers who put themselves on the line to protect Ontario’s citizens deserve assurance that the province has their backs.”

Marin said 23 OPP officers have committed suicide since 1989, two more than have been killed on duty in the same period of time.

In the Line of Duty,” the 155-page report released Wednesday, contains 34 recommendations.

Among these are the need to focus on confronting stigmas, an increase in the psychological services available and the development of programs aimed at dealing with and preventing operation stress injuries and suicide.

“This is about supporting the people who put their lives on the line in the most difficult kind of public service and keeping them healthy and functioning,” said Marin.

The Canadian Mental Health Association say on its website that as many as one in 10 Canadians suffer from an anxiety disorder, which can include post-traumatic stress.

OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis said he wants to review the findings.

“The OPP is committed to supporting its workforce and this includes addressing operational stress injuries,” Lewis said in a statement released Wednesday.

“While we have made significant progress in this area, we can still do better and we will.”

Marin said he sent the findings to the OPP in late August, but did not receive a response until Oct. 18.

The OPP said it would review the recommendations and take appropriate action but Marin said the reaction amounted to a deeply disturbing “bureaucratic brushoff.”

“Regrettably, it is the men and women who risk their lives and health in the line of duty who will pay the price for this indifference.”

Marin made similar recommendations to the Canadian Forces 10 years earlier, which were accepted and implemented.

“If the military culture can evolve, I am optimistic that police culture can, too,” Marin said.

Watch the full video of Marin’s news conference here