VANCOUVER — Alice Fox was an RCMP officer for more than a decade, serving at the Maple Ridge detachment before heading to the Integrated Road Safety Unit in New Westminster.
“I loved my job. It was a fun career to be involved with, but sad when it went,” said Fox.
She says she never dreamed it would all come crashing down the way it did.
“I was pushed off a proverbial edge with my PTSD,” she explained.
“Mine kind of hit fast and furious.”
In the line of duty
Fox recalled a defining moment that may have triggered her mental illness.
It was a routine traffic stop in Port Coquitlam back in 2007.
She was pulling a vehicle over, but said the driver was acting odd.
“I noticed the driver was extremely nervous, and there was a passenger in the vehicle as well. There was an overwhelming odour of raw marijuana in the vehicle.”
She thought it was a drug deal gone bad, until the driver reached for the glove box.
“I wasn’t aware of it until it came up and round, and it was a nine-millimetre gun,” she said.
The reality of what happened didn’t sink in until she was driving home.
“I realized that could have been my last day. And in that moment, That’s I believe when the PTSD took hold from me,” Fox explained.
The breaking point
That close call and years worth of other trauma from serving in both the RCMP and the military drove her to try and take her own life last September.
She says her PTSD had become all-consuming.
“It’s like being in jail and a mental mental jail that you can’t get out of,” she said
She was institutionalized for months – treatment she had to seek out on her own.
“You have to advocate for every little ounce of your sanity, when you have post-traumatic stress disorder,” Fox told CTV News.
She says the name RCMP health services is misleading.
“It’s more like an ICBC adjuster. They take your case, “Oh we’re broken this far, we can fix you. Oh yeah, you’re write-off and now you go into another system. We need something more dignified.”
End of watch
Despite her struggles she is grateful to be alive after losing many colleagues to suicide.
Fox was friends with Pierre Lemaitre, who was the spokesperson for the RCMP following the fatal police confrontation with Robert Dziekanski at YVR.
Lemaitre handled media relations for the Mounties in the days following Dziekanski’s death and was later accused of misleading the public. However, an inquiry into the Polish immigrant’s death concluded Lemaitre didn’t know some of the information he had given was inaccurate. He died by suicide in July 2013.
Fox was also friends with Krista Carle who left the RCMP after fighting against sexual harassment and bullying. She died by suicide in July 2018.
She calls the way the manner in which the RCMP has handled suicides and mental health issues as “institutional betrayal.”
“By the time someone gets to the point where they need help. It’s already too late,” Fox said.
She says the focus should be on prevention, but wants others with PTSD to know there are better days ahead.
“You have a choice, you can be locked into post traumatic stress disorder, or you can focus on post traumatic growth.”
She’s now saluting former Mounties that have been vocal about their concerns like Staff Sgt. Jennifer Pound of IHIT and Mountie-turned-psychologist Jeff Morley.
“These are highly confident police officers who are standing up and saying no more,” said Fox.
Morley says the RCMP has made major strides in the last 10 years, but says some people are still suffering in silence.
“I don’t want to see any more suicides careers ended prematurely,” he told CTV News.
Pound is encouraging more first responders to share their experiences, so others know they’re not alone.
“This conversation needs to build momentum until the right people who can make that positive change, actually do it and are held accountable to it.”
She plans to continue advocating for those struggling with their mental illness, so fewer officers end their watch.
Those in crisis or needing support can call 911 in the case of an emergency or one of the following resources:
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