RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki says the force has "more work to do" to improve its officers' mental health after a high-profile member with PTSD spoke out about the lack of resources.
Last week, Staff Sgt. Jennifer Pound described post-traumatic stress disorder among Mounties as a worsening crisis and called on politicians to address the issue.
In an email to CBC News, Lucki said the force is working on providing more programs and services to reduce wait times for officers struggling with mental health issues.
"We continually work to improve our efforts to maintain a psychologically healthy and safe workplace through increased accountability for well-being, aligned services and programs, increased engagement and increased knowledge of employee needs and well-being," Lucki wrote.
"But we know we have more work to do."
The commissioner also said she respects and admires people like Pound who have spoken publicly about their personal mental health struggles.
Ex-RCMP spokesperson calls out lack of support
Once one of the most prominent faces of the RCMP in British Columbia, Pound has now stepped forward as a face of PTSD, revealing it took her almost two years to get the therapeutic help she needed.
The former high-profile RCMP spokesperson for the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team during the height of gang killings in B.C., mysteriously vanished from the spotlight in 2017
I was not able to get out of bed. I just felt like it was spiralling, and every day was not getting better. I was kind of falling into the abyss. - Jennifer Pound, former RCMP spokesperson
"I was not able to get out of bed," said Pound, in an exclusive interview with CBC News. "I just felt like it was spiralling, and every day was not getting better. I was kind of falling into the abyss."
She says the emotional toll of trying to comfort families of victims behind the scenes led to her post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis.
Pound said RCMP Health Services didn't help her find treatment. When she was finally directed to the force's Occupational Stress Injury clinic, she found there was a 12-month waiting list.
In her email, Lucki said the clinic serves Canadian Armed Forces personnel in addition to active and retired RCMP members, leading to high demand and long wait times.
She added in cases where wait times are unacceptable, RCMP Occupational Health Services can facilitate treatment for members through a plan recommended by their physician.
Despite the long wait, Pound says she was pressured by the force to return to work after taking sick leave. "Our first responders are committing suicide, and that's because there is no help for them," she said.
The latest numbers supplied by the RCMP show 12 members and 10 retirees have taken their lives in the past five years.
RCMP creating online programs to reduce wait
In her email, Commissioner Lucki explained that the RCMP's process for clearing members to return to duty is based on industry best practices and includes workplace accommodation if needed.
The RCMP is hiring 14 additional psychologists to work on a Periodic Psychological Health Assessment program for early detection and intervention in mental health issues that will be implemented by spring 2020.
Lucki adds the force is working on programs to provide mental health support to members quicker, including launching a telepsychology program on Oct. 1, which would provide services online or by phone, and working on providing internet-based cognitive behaviour therapy.
She said a study launched in April will monitor officers for their first five years of service in the field, and results will be used "to get effective treatment and support to our members earlier."