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Former RCMP officer Deanna Lennox speaks about suffering PTSD on the job

05/01/2015 03:16 EDT | Updated 05/01/2016 05:12 EDT
Over the years as an RCMP officer in B.C. and Alberta, Deanna Lennox worked undercover, conducted drug busts and visited the scenes of grisly and horrifying car crashes.

But an on-the-job incident in 2004 took her off the streets, and resulted in a diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder.

Lennox said she had no choice, but to retire. She has since written the book Damage Done: A Mountie's Memoir to chronicle her traumatic experiences.

"I felt very compelled to do what I could do to combat the stigma associated with operations stress injuries like PTSD and also mental health in general," said Lennox.

She sat down with On the Coast's Stephen Quinn to talk about her book.

What made you decide to write about your own experience with PTSD?

I had many discussions with my husband as to whether I actually wanted to put myself out there in this way. I felt very compelled to do what I could do to combat the stigma associated with operational stress injuries like PTSD and also mental health in general.

Were you hoping that it could resonate with other Mounties as well?

Yeah, absolutely. I think that's it's important for other first responders to know that even though you go through these types of injuries, you can overcome them.

Tell me about the incident that ended your career as an officer.

I was exposed to several shotgun blasts at a scene where a vehicle struck a moose and the moose had to be put down. I didn't have hearing protection but didn't think anything of it.

Ultimately, I discovered I had suffered a permanent hearing loss which abruptly and unexpectedly ended my operational career. I was very attached to my identity as a police officer and when I was told I wouldn't be able to wear a uniform anymore, it was devastating. 

You write that as you went through that depression and coped with the PTSD that you felt a distinct lack of support from your superiors.

I just think that it's important to address the culture and the stigma of coming forward and dealing with these types of injuries. It sounds like they're in the process of implementing peer support programs (although they've tried that in the past without success). But at least they're trying to go forward.

Before you ended up with depression and PTSD, the fact is you suffered an operational injury that no longer allowed you to do the job you love doing. What should the RCMP have done with you at that point?

I think the issue at that time was just the lack of choice and lack of understanding. When I was able to deal with that and come to a place where I could make the choice, I chose to move on.

I think that when you're put in that position to be on the defensive, it prolongs the process and it didn't allow me to make the best choice for me.

What do you hope comes of it?

With all the first responders that have committed suicide in the last while, my goal is to not have one more person who serves their country or community feel so overwhelmed with the experience they've had from their service that they feel that they need to take their own life.

To hear the full interview, click the audio labelled: Former officer shares story of PTSD struggles.

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