“Seeking help is not a weakness,” said Sergeant Josh Roda of the Merritt RCMP. “It takes strength to recognize something is wrong and it takes a lot of strength to work towards fixing it and getting healthy.”
To commemorate Remembrance Day, we are asked to not only honour the people who both serve and have served our country, but we are also asked to recognize the toll it takes on a person when they are in the line of duty, whether it be in the military, the police, the fire department, or emergency response.
“I think the military, the police, or any first responders see horrendous things when we go to work,” Roda explained. “We often deal with people on the worst day of their lives. We have to be there for them and be a part of their horrible day. Because this is the case, we have to worry about ourselves at times, so I just want to encourage anyone suffering from operational stress injuries to seek help.”
The Herald spoke with Sgt. Roda to talk about how the officers of the Merritt RCMP are managing the stresses they face while on duty.
“If RCMP members are involved in a critical incident such as a shooting, a horrible death, or a horrible collision scene, our officers will call our Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) team and they’ll touch base with all the members involved to offer support. They will also do large debriefs on the situation so members can talk about their feelings, talk about what happened and how they are doing. If they require further support, we put people in touch with psychologists and counseling.”
The CISM team is a group of officers that are trained in crisis intervention, deescalation techniques, stress management techniques. The CISM program is accessible for all RCMP members across Canada. In Merritt, there are two trained CISM members available for our local RCMP members to access should they feel the need.
“We have those support locally if we need it right away but we can also call on other CISM members or peer to peer members outside of that if they need help,” said Roda.
“It’s been incredibly valuable. Members are looped in right away when officers are dealing with the various case files, to offer support in real time.”
Geared towards active RCMP members, the CISM team’s service is very beneficial because of the ongoing check ins that the team does to members and their ability to refer them to any necessary resources and services.
“The RCMP has been excellent in the last five years at really taking the reins on this,” Roda said.
“Members do not carry the baggage of case files anymore and they have an understanding of how these incidents are going to affect them. I notice that I have a lot less members dealing with mental health issues because of these programs.”
Roda noted the necessity of this program within their line of work, citing examples like death of children, sudden death, and horrific car accidents as some of the worst cases that officers may be exposed to on the field.
“Our members this past year have gone through two horrific shootings where somebody took their life in front of our detachment,” he recalled. “Six months later we had a huge shootout here with a dangerous offender in town. The ability to debrief and put members in touch with a psychologist is critical to their health.”
Along with the CISM program, the RCMP also has a peer to peer support network in place, with one member available at the local detachment. Active and retired members are also able to access the Operational Stress Injury Program where they can receive supports to cope with the stresses from the field.
“I hope all our responders can seek help so everybody can be healthy and we can serve the public the best we can.”