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RCMP Mental Health Strategy (2014-2019)


An organization's most valuable resource is its employees. Without them, an organization could not succeed, be productive or meet its mandate. This is why it is so important to look after our employees to ensure that they can be contributing, healthy and well balanced members of the organization. But being healthy means more than just physical wellness. While it is often easier to recognize a physical injury in someone, we cannot ignore the importance of mental health and well being. In fact, both should be treated with equal importance.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) recognizes this and takes the health and safety of all its employees seriously.

In recent years, the RCMP has taken positive steps to address the growing need to create a psychologically healthy and safe workplace, including:

  • Entering in to a memorandum of understanding with Health Canada to provide RCMP employees, and their dependents, access to the Employee Assistance Services (EAS).
  • Eligible members and their families may receive treatment at a Veterans Affairs Canada or Canadian Forces OSI Clinics when referred by their treating physician and approved by their Health Services Officer. For retired members and their families, OSI Clinics are administered through Veterans Affairs Canada.
  • In April 2012, granting regular members (RMs) an eight-hour leave provision referred to as a Wellness Day. The intent of which is to allow RMs time to enjoy life away from their workplace responsibilities.
  • The development in 2011 of a Critical Incident Stress Management course that instructs learners on how to recognize the effects of critical incident stress and provides techniques that can be applied to minimize the impact of an event.
  • Developing a peer-to-peer program which will serve as a complement to the EAS. These two programs will reside under the umbrella of the RCMP Employee Assistance Program.

But we know that more can and should be done to address the issue of mental health in the workplace.

That is why the RCMP has developed a five-year mental health strategy that will guide its efforts and priorities in enhancing the health and safety of its employees. The strategy is based on a balance of:

  • clinical experience gained by our in-house licensed psychologists, health services officers and nurses;
  • feedback from our disability management and return-to-work coordinators;
  • the Mental Health Commission of Canada's voluntary standards for psychological health and safety in the workplace; and
  • the RCMP's reality as a policing organization where a large number of its employees are exposed to traumatic events on the job, including those behind operational front lines providing support services.

The purpose of the strategy is to help us improve the awareness and use of our existing psychological health policies, programs and services; and guide us towards improving them in the future.

It also serves to highlight the critical role of those in leadership positions -- Commanding Officers, managers and supervisors -- in being proactive, supportive, and engaging our employees in being part of the solution in addressing mental health issues within our organization.

What is mental health?

According to the World Health Organization, "mental health is a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her own community."

There are many different reasons why a person may be struggling with a mental health issue. It could be as a result of genetics, stress or other factors beyond their control. Maintaining good mental health can be challenging, especially when there is:

  • lack of knowledge about psychological health leading to:
    • mistrust in talking about mental health issues; fearing it will impact one's career; and
    • stigma associated with misconceptions around psychological health problems.
  • Inconsistencies in how we manage and support employees psychological health problems across the organization; and
  • a lack of information on available support programs and services and how to access them as early as possible.

How is the RCMP affected by psychological health problems?

Psychological health problems are a reality in society today and can be found both at work and in personal life. In 2013, it was estimated that more than 6.7 million Canadians were living with a mental health problem or illness.

RCMP employees are not immune to this, and are perhaps more at risk working in a policing environment. It's a reality that throughout their careers, many employees will experience situations that the average Canadian is not subjected to.

This line of work can be demanding and it can be challenging at times. Some of you will run to situations from which others will turn away. Some of you will help someone through their darkest hours. Others are working behind the scenes day in and day out to provide support and ensure the smooth operation of the Force.

Psychological health problems are a reality and they can have a significant impact on the vitality, creativity, motivation and commitment of employees, contributing to:

  • impaired productivity;
  • short and long-term sick leave;
  • unwanted turnover; and
  • use of disability and health benefits.


The RCMP will enhance the health, safety and resiliency of its employees by:

  • - consistently using, and increasing awareness of existing programs and policies;
  • proactively protecting them from the impacts of psychological risks;
  • fostering a supportive culture for those directly and indirectly affected by psychological health problems; and
  • assisting those with psychological health issues in regaining their optimal health and remaining valued productive employees of the RCMP.

Current state

Regular/Civilian Members

A recent audit of long-term sick leave within our RM/CM population has revealed that approximately 38% of our members who are off-duty sick long-term have cited mental health as the reason.

The RCMP has psychological health policies, programs and services in place to protect and support its employees; and is currently working to put in place a new disability management structure (DMS) that will mandate and facilitate intervention within the first few days of an injury whether psychological or physical . The new DMS will make certain that there is active, consistent and ongoing case management that provides RCMP members access to counseling and return-to-work services.

Complementing these programs and services is the RCMP's unique advantage of having health services personnel (psychologist, nurses etc.) on staff allowing for a shared responsibility between RCMP members, leaders and OHSS personnel to maintain our psychological health.

Public Service Employees

However, the RCMP is cognizant of the fact that it also employs public service employees who cannot avail themselves of these services, yet require mental health support services and programs as well.

According to a 2012 National Joint Council report on the administration of the Public Service Disability Insurance Plan, mental health conditions were the most frequently cited cause of new approved claims (47.6% of the total). In contrast, according to the Public Service Management Dashboard, 55.4% of RCMP Public Service employees were actively managed for mental health problems by the same Plan in 2012.

The strategic goals and action items in the RCMP mental health strategy builds on these realities so that ultimately, we will realize our vision of having psychologically healthy, safe and resilient employees, regardless of their category, ready to provide for the safety and security of Canadians.

Our focus

The strategy focuses on five key areas:

  1. Promotion
  2. Education
  3. Prevention
  4. Early detection and intervention
  5. Continuous improvement.

Our goals

Following are the RCMP's three strategic goals, for each one, there are clear action plans with expected deliverables and timelines.

  1. The RCMP will strive to eliminate stigma associated with psychological health problems within its organization.

  2. The RCMP will take proactive steps to help its employees maintain and/or improve their psychological health.

  3. The RCMP will continually improve the management and review of psychological health and safety programs and services.

Strategic Goal I - The RCMP will strive to eliminate stigma associated with psychological health problems within its organization.

What is stigma?

According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, stigma refers to negative, unfavourable attitudes and the behaviour they produce. It is a form of prejudice that:

  • spreads fear and misinformation;
  • labels individuals; and
  • perpetuates stereotypes.

Stigma against people with psychological health problems is oppressive and alienating; it prevents many from seeking help, denying them access to the support networks and treatment they need to recover.

People experience stigma as a barrier that can affect nearly every aspect of life, including but not limited to the limiting of employment opportunities or even distancing from and/or the loss of family and friends. It can also affect self-image when one starts to believe the negative views held by others, also known as self-stigma.

Reducing stigma and self-stigma requires a change in behaviour and attitudes toward acceptance, respect and equitable treatment of people living with a psychological health problem.

Stigma within our organization

No employee should feel stigma when coming forward and acknowledging that something they've experienced on the job, or at home, is affecting their mental health.

As such, the RCMP has zero tolerance for the out-dated attitude that mental health injuries are not real. It is important for RCMP leaders and employees to understand that psychological health problems are not anyone's choice; and that recovery is possible with appropriate treatment and supports.

For our employees involved in operational policing, the reality is that it is a highly dangerous profession, and exposes them to potentially stressful and traumatic situations. For some members in high risk units, this is a daily reality and considered part of their job. Police officers are expected to be tough and traditionally it was just part of the culture to not talk about how the job may be affecting you.

There is now a greater acknowledgement that RCMP officers are only human. They deal with the same life stressors as every other Canadian, with the added risk of physical and psychological work-related injuries inherent to police work.

What is the RCMP doing to eliminate stigma associated to mental health issues?

The RCMP will continue to work towards eliminating stigma associated with psychological health problems within its organization by taking specific actions to ensure that employees of all categories and levels, as well as cadets:

  • I.1 Improve their awareness, knowledge and understanding of psychological health problems impacting the RCMP.

  • I.2 Strengthen their commitment to maintain an inclusive, healthy and respectful workplace.

  • I.3 Improve their understanding of their respective roles in the prevention, early detection and intervention of psychological health problems.

These specific actions are linked to two key areas of the strategy: promotion and education. As such, RCMP employees can expect targeted promotional campaigns, training and awareness designed to:

  • demystify psychological health problems;
  • provide individuals with tools for dealing with occupational and other stressors;
  • teach early identification of signs and symptoms and the importance of peer and leadership support; and
  • educate on barriers to seeking mental health care and mental health resources for employees and their families.

Strategic Goal II - The RCMP will take proactive steps to help its employees maintain and/or improve psychological health.

In order to help employees maintain and improve their psychological heaIlth, the RCMP mental health strategy aims to accomplish the following two strategic objectives:

  • II.1Where possible, reducing the presence and/or impact of psychological risks, and enhancing employees' capacity to manage remaining risks.

  • II.2 Ensuring that those in leadership positions have the responsibility and accountability for their employees' wellbeing and provide them, whenever necessary, with the available support services as early as possible

Prevention of psychological risks where possible -- is the key area supporting this strategic goal. Psychological risks are defined as hazards including elements of the work environment, management practices and/or organizational dimensions that increase the risk to health. Prevention activities will include making appropriate changes and improvements to individual or organizational conditions that may contribute to psychological health problems, thus reducing the likelihood that problems may occur.

Some prevention activities have already taken place, including:

  • Launched, in early 2014, the mandatory Respectful Workplace course. The purpose of the course is to help ensure that employees have the knowledge necessary to contribute to a workplace where they all feel safe and respected.

  • Launched, in December 2013, the Workplace Reporting System; a centralized way for employees to report workplace issues if they are unsure where to go, or when established reporting methods are not appropriate or possible.


While it's not possible to completely reduce the presence of all psychological risks, the strategy will strive to mitigate remaining risks, by enhancing employees ability to cope effectively with the stress of difficult life and work experiences. This is known as "resilience". According to the American Psychological Association, resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors.

Employees with low resilience are more likely to:

  • exhibit illness and disability;
  • be susceptible to higher absence and turnover; and
  • have reduced engagement and productivity.

Everyone has the potential to become more resilient. Promotion and education are two key areas that will aim to provide tools to enhance employees' resilience skills.

Early detection and intervention

If mild psychological distress and difficulty are not identified or addressed in a timely manner, they may degenerate into more serious problems, functional impairment, and/or secondary psychological or physical health issues, which may be much harder to resolve.

Employees may have psychological health problems which could be exhibited in the workplace through:

  • declining or inconsistent job performance,
  • interpersonal difficulties, or
  • other uncharacteristic behaviours.

Regardless of the source, these behaviours require attention. Managers and supervisors are generally well-positioned to recognize problematic behaviours and take action.

Manager response, or lack thereof, can play a part in determining whether an employee's psychological health problems worsen. It is critical to give managers and supervisors the knowledge and skills needed to respond appropriately to employees showing behaviours that may indicate a psychological health or safety issue.

The key areas supporting this strategic goal are early detection and intervention. This consists of identifying and addressing psychological health problems when they are in a relatively mild state and early stage, so that fast response will forestall more serious problems.

As indicated above, managers and supervisors play a very important role in early detection and intervention. Research has shown that individuals with psychological distress or mild dysfunction have the ability to cope with their psychological problems -- in the early stages when they are equipped with the resources to do so. They achieve even more success in overcoming their psychological problems when they receive coaching and support from health care providers, Employee Assistance Services, family or peers.

Accordingly, the strategy focuses on providing managers and supervisors with the appropriate information and training to facilitate their responsibility in early detection and intervention. In addition, employees can expect to receive information on where to seek help in order to assist with their ability to cope when facing mild psychological health symptoms.

Although it is important to address psychological health problems at an initial stage, despite our best efforts, some employees will require further assistance through the provision of ongoing support to stay at work and, if they do need to take time off work, to return in a timely, safe and sustainable manner.

Strategic Goal III - The RCMP will continually improve the management and review of psychological health and safety.

The cornerstone of continuous improvement is the ability to evaluate the implementation of the mental health strategy and results of actions taken to enhance psychological health and safety. The desired outcome of the evaluation is to address strengths and weaknesses of the strategy in order to sustain all effective actions and improve or eliminate ineffective actions in a process of continuous improvement.

  • III.1 Measuring the organization's psychological health and safety performance will be part of an annual management review process.

In January 2013, the Mental Health Commission of Canada released the Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace Standard. This voluntary standard provides a framework to create and continually improve the psychological health and safety of our workplace. The framework was developed to be consistent with a widely-accepted approach to improvement of organizational quality, that of the International Standards Organization (ISO).

Organizational interventions based on the ISO format have an excellent track record for driving continual improvement. The RCMP has, therefore, decided to conform to this standard through the development and implementation of a psychological health and safety management and review system, a key area of this strategy.

As such, the key area supporting this goal is continuous improvement and will include the design of a psychological health and safety performance monitoring and measurement system. The purpose of performance monitoring and measurement is to obtain qualitative and quantitative measurements of Footnote 1:

  • the psychological health and safety of the organization (including promotion, education, prevention, early detection and intervention efforts) ; and
  • organizational conformance to the Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace Standard, including process evaluation.

This will allow decision makers at all levels within the RCMP to Footnote 1:

  • effectively manage and report on psychological health and safety performance;
  • ensure compliance with legislative (e.g. CLC Part II) and other requirements (e.g. RCMP OHS Policies); and
  • apply their resources for maximum effect.

The results of this evaluation will allow for an annual management review process that will lead to Footnote 1:

  • opportunities for improvement and, if deficiencies/variances in policy are identified, corrective actions will be implemented;
  • review and update of the organizational policies and procedures specific to or related to the psychological health and safety management and review system;
  • review and update of objectives, targets, and action plans; and
  • communication opportunities to enhance understanding and application of results.

Appendix A - RCMP Health Services and Benefits

All employees

Employee Assistance Program

All RCMP employees and their dependents can access the Employee Assistance Services (EAS) provided by Health Canada. EAS provides employees with up to 8 hours of counseling per issue. Issues can be work related or personal in nature, and there is no limit to the number of issues an employee or dependent can request assistance with.

Regular members

The RCMP's Occupational Health Services is comprised of specialized health practitioners who screen and monitor all members to identify physical and mental health risks. Some high-risk duty areas receive increased focus and monitoring to ensure employees are being assessed on an ongoing basis. Work-related health issues whether physical or mental are taken very seriously. 

The RCMP currently has 11 occupational health services offices across Canada available to RCMP officers, referred to as regular members (RMs), to support their health, safety and fitness for duty

Occupational Health and Safety Services teams include:

  • medical doctors;
  • psychologists;
  • occupational health nurses;
  • occupational safety officers;
  • disability case managers;
  • return to work facilitators; and
  • duty to accommodate coordinators.

In addition, eligible members may receive treatment at a Veterans Affairs Canada or Canadian Forces Operational Stress Injury (OSI) Clinics when referred by their treating physician or a member's Health Services Officer. As well, a wide range of external services are available to RMs through provincial/territorial health care programs and community service providers.

RCMP officers have direct access to Canadian medical and psychological practitioners of their choice; inclusive of general physicians, psychiatrists, and community-based psychologists. The RCMP's Health Care Entitlements and Benefits Programs allow coverage for the following:

  • An eligible member is covered for personal or group counseling by an approved psychologist without a referral or authorization for a maximum of six hours followed by a further six hours when preauthorized by the divisional psychologist per calendar year. 
  • An eligible member is covered for couple or family counseling by an approved psychologist without a referral or authorization for a maximum of six hours followed by a further six hours when pre-authorized by the regional or divisional psychologist per calendar year.
  • An eligible member and his/her dependents may receive further couple or family treatments if preauthorized under the occupational health care level for the following work-related factors such as when the member is diagnosed with an OSI.
    • Eligible members may also receive further personal psychological treatment if preauthorized under the occupational health care program.

Periodic Health Assessments

Periodic Health Assessments (PHAs) are mandatory every three years for all regular members*. These assessments help ensure that a member is fit to perform their assigned duties and it helps identify if the member's occupation is having a harmful effect on their health. If a member performs highrisk duties, assessments may occur more frequently.

* in unique circumstances, CMs may be required to have PHAs as well.

RCMP Veterans

RCMP Veterans are persons, retired or still serving, in receipt of an award granted under section 32 of the RCMP Superannuation Act. RCMP Veterans (RMs and CMs) may be eligible to receive a wide range of services administered by Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC). These services include:

  • disability pensions;
  • health benefits and services; and
  • access to OSI Clinics.

RCMP Veterans may receive one or all of the following services:

  • counseling;
  • case management;
  • screening;
  • referral;
  • information;
  • advocacy support; and
  • assistance in accessing programs from VAC or other community agencies.

Veterans Affairs Canada provides the above services through their respective multidisciplinary team of health care experts.

Public service employees and civilian members

The Public Service Health Care Plan is designed to supplement care provided by employees' provincial health care plan and is administered by the Treasury Board. It is available to:

  • civilian members and their dependents;
  • public servants employees and their dependents; and
  • the dependents of regular members.

Footnote 1With the permission of Bureau de normalisation du Qubec (BNQ), CSA Group (CSA) and the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), material is reproduced from standard, CAN/CSA-Z1003-13/BNQ 9700-803/2013 - Psychological health and safety in the workplace - Prevention, promotion, and guidance to staged implementation which is copyrighted by BNQ, CSA and MHCC. This material is not the complete and official position on the referenced subject, which is represented solely by the standard in its entirety. While use of the material has been authorized, BNQ, CSA and MHCC are not responsible for the manner in which the data is presented, nor for any interpretations thereof.