February 27, 2024

Ottawa, ON – Today, the National Police Federation (NPF) released a new report on mental health among RCMP Members based on a study by a team of researchers at the University of Regina: “Behind the Badge: Revealing Escalating Mental Health Injuries Among RCMP Members”. This report reveals the escalating mental health challenges amongst Members of the RCMP Members across Canada while providing a pathway for positive change in the way mental health services are provided to Members.  

Critically, the report highlights that the current state of mental health of Members, as well as the operational and organizational stressors Members are exposed to regularly, is worsening compared to previous studies, underscoring the immediate need for investment in comprehensive, accessible, and evidence-based mental health supports.  

The NPF and the University of Regina surveyed a representative sample of 1,348 actively serving Members of the RCMP between June 2022 to February 2023 to gather information on Members’ mental health, exposure to potentially psychologically traumatic events (PPTEs), awareness of mental health supports, operational and organizational stressors, discrimination and harassment, mental health training, as well as anonymized demographic information. This RCMP-only study was benchmarked against a similar 2018 study across a spectrum of Canadian public safety personnel. The data and analysis from this RCMP-only study, supported by both the NPF and the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT), was independently collected and analyzed and will be published in a series of peer-reviewed articles.  

Key Findings 

RCMP recruits are typically more mentally healthy and resilient than the general population.  

  • Only 6.4% of cadets (RCMP recruits in training) screen positively for any current mental disorders compared to 10.1% for the general population. 

RCMP Members, through the function of their service, are exposed to a variety of potentially psychologically traumatic events while experiencing significant organizational and operational stressors. 

  • Members reported, on average, exposure to at least 13 of the 17 different types of potentially psychologically traumatic events (PPTEs), well beyond the two potentially traumatic events most people will experience over the course of their lifetime. 
  • On any given shift, Members could experience a traumatic event such as sudden violent death, assault with a weapon, and sexual assault. 
  • In addition, operational and organizational stressors, such as negative public feedback, fatigue, staff shortages, resource constraints, and bureaucratic hurdles, exacerbate the challenges they face. 

The results of frequent exposure to potentially psychologically traumatic events, unique and challenging stressors, and inadequate mental health supports lead to a high prevalence of mental health disorders and suicidal behaviour. 

  • Members are six times more likely to screen positive for any mental health disorder than the general population. 
  • Members are almost twice as likely to screen positively for generalized anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder as other PSPs, and more than twice as likely to screen positively for PTSD and panic disorder. 

“We all expected participants to report that their work and lives had become more stressful since our last study, but I was surprised and concerned at how much more intense the stress and challenges had become,” said Dr. Nick Carleton, Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Regina and Scientific Director for CIPSRT. “The results are extremely concerning for RCMP Members and law enforcement personnel more broadly.” 

“RCMP Members are deployed across the country, often alone, and they are being asked to be all things to all people,” said Dr. Carleton. “Being responsible for providing myriad social services can take an extreme toll, and the impacts of unreasonable expectations on the RCMP are reflected in the current study. The stark reality is that Members are more than three times more likely to have contemplated suicide in the past year and more than five times more likely to have planned it.”  

“These statistics reflect true and ongoing challenges within our Membership that require immediate, evidence-based solutions, and we must work in partnership with the RCMP to address this critical issue and improve workplace health and quality of life for our Members,” said NPF President and C.E.O., Brian Sauvé. “Members want, need, and fundamentally deserve access to mental health supports. We know that we can’t protect a police officer from being exposed to traumatic events, but we can support them afterwards through appropriate, well-funded, and expert care. We can now apply this compelling new data to inform our work with various stakeholders, most importantly the RCMP, Federal Government, and mental health experts and influencers.”  

The NPF is recommending a series of initiatives including requesting the RCMP to engage with the NPF and relevant service providers in the creation of a Mental Health and Wellness Framework that is readily available and accessible to all Members and their families, easily navigable and centered around early detection, prevention, and treatment.  

“This data gives us a crucial starting point to understanding these issues and we look forward to being part of this work that will drive positive change leadership not only for our Members, but all law enforcement officers,” added Brian Sauvé. “By investing in comprehensive mental health initiatives, we can create a safer, healthier, and more resilient environment for police and the communities they serve, ensuring they receive the care and guidance they rightfully deserve.” 

A full list of recommendations can be found here: https://npf-fpn.com/app/uploads/securepdfs/2024/02/Media-Backgrounder-English.pdf 

Our full report is available here: https://npf-fpn.com/app/uploads/securepdfs/2024/02/NPF-Mental-Health-Report-English.pdf 

About the National Police Federation:

The National Police Federation (NPF) represents ~20,000 RCMP Members serving across Canada and internationally. We are the largest police union in Canada. The NPF is focused on improving public safety for all Canadians, including our Members by advocating for much-needed investment in the public safety continuum. This includes investments in police resourcing and modern equipment, as well as social programs including health, addiction, and housing supports to enhance safety and livability in the many communities we serve, large and small, across Canada.

For more information: https://npf-fpn.com/

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Media Contact

Sarah Kavanagh
Coordinator, Media Relations
[email protected]
(604) 842-6864