Det. Const. Debbie Carleton today and as a young rookie in the inset
DET. CONST. DEBBIE CARLETON'S JOB RUINED HER HEALTH. But getting the care any injured worker is entitled to is not easy. She has filed a complaint with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission to get it.
Debbie has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). No surprise when your job for 22 years was seeing the worst of people, or people in great pain, all day, every day.
Halifax police Chief Jean-Michel Blais also has PTSD. In fact Blais calls himself the “poster boy” for those living with PTSD. That hasn’t helped Debbie. Blais refuses to approve any more treatment for her.
Debbie says she “feels discarded” and “completely abandoned” by her chief.
She is not alone. Const. Mark Long filed a human rights complaint in September, claiming the department denied him the specialized care his PTSD requires.
Workers shouldn’t expect ‘Cadillac care’
Blais maintains his support for his officers is 100%. But he has called PTSD the “flavour of the day.” He says it can overshadow other mental illnesses officers may suffer that are not caused by their work.
He also suggests those with PTSD shouldn’t blame him when they don’t get “Cadillac treatment.” Something he says the police department can’t afford. He says his officers should simply take whatever care is offered and say, “I’m going to take care of myself and get going?”
Suicide attempt not enough to merit care
Debbie Carleton, started as a patrol officer in 1995. She witnessed more than her share of horror, working undercover as a prostitute, investigating child pornography, human trafficking and other serious crimes.
It was hard for Debbie to accept her June 2015 diagnosis. “There is still a huge stigma of coming forward to say that you have PTSD because you feel broken, ashamed, especially as a female going through years and years of trying to prove yourself to men that you can handle the job.”
In August 2016, she asked a friend at the department to come to her home and collect her gun because she wanted to kill herself.
It was only in January 2017, following nine phone calls, faxes and voice mails from her psychologist, that the Halifax police department approved funding for 10 weeks of care in Ontario.
When Debbie returned to Halifax, her health worsened and she attempted suicide. Her psychologist contacted Halifax Regional Police four times, outlining Debbie Carleton’s deteriorating condition.
Halifax Regional Police refused more care, at one point saying it was not legally or contractually obligated to pay for out-of-province care. They suggest if Debbie wants that care she should pay for it herself.
Union presses for better understanding and care
Debbie Carleton’s union has filed a grievance.
“We need to do all we can to make these officers better,” said Halifax Regional Police Association president Mark Hartlen. “Why do we have a problem dealing with mental illness?”
Union members have the impression they’re being left to their own devices and that money concerns are getting in the way of treatment, said Hartlen.