“I was sitting in my basement, with a drink in one hand and my nine-millimetre pistol in the other.” Staff Sergeant Ron Campbell speaks about one of his darkest hours. The downward spiral of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression had taken a toll on Ron and he was sure it was time to end the suffering.
Ron continues his story, “I am a see-it-and-believe it kind of guy, I always have been. But that night something happened that I can’t explain. My dog Zach, who was in the basement with me, came over to me, sniffed the gun, looked me in the eye and placed his head in my lap. That wasn’t the way he usually acted. It distracted me, and I remember saying ‘OK Zach, not tonight’ and putting the gun away.”
The life of a police officer presents many challenges. Ron witnessed the death of a man trapped in a burning vehicle. He attended a fatal accident and discovered that two of the young men who had perished were members of a team he coached.
Ron was shot at more than once and slashed with a knife, all in the line of duty.
The tipping point for Ron happened when he responded to a critical incident in a home in St. Albert. An officer was shot, Ron’s colleague and friend. The individual who shot Ron’s friend was also killed that night.
Ron recalls, “I couldn’t process the grief anymore. It just wouldn’t go away. The downward spiral I was already on gained a frightening momentum; I lost control.”
A former police partner of Ron’s asked him how he was doing. Ron responded that he was doing fine, but he wasn’t. His former partner pressed him by saying, “No, really how are you?”
What might have seemed like a casual conversation became a catalyst for change as Ron suffered the effects of post-traumatic stress and depression.
“I knew I was busted, I wasn’t fooling anyone I was only fooling myself,” Ron remembers. Three weeks later he called a psychologist to ask for help. “Going to see a psychologist was the most fear I have ever known in my life. When I walked through that door I knew my life was about change.”
Ron feared losing the respect of his family and co-workers and he was unsure of how his choice to ask for help would impact his career. Incredibly, the police officer who had built a reputation for toughness, faced bullets, knives and dangerous people, was gripped by the fear of admitting his need for help.
Living with PTSD and being diagnosed and treated for Major Depressive Disorder has not taken away from Ron’s life. He says it this way: “I refuse to be defined by my disorder, and I continue to help people every day by sharing my story. I tell other officers there is an emotional wall we put up at work and we believe everything will bounce off it and not affect us. The problems start when we forget to take that wall down at home. The most important people in our lives get shut out.”
Today, Ron continues to work with the RCMP. He speaks to the general public and about the possibility of change and the benefits of asking for help. “They come up to me and say, ‘Thanks, I struggle with depression too,’ or they say, ‘Thank you for having the guts to tell the truth.’ Still others say ‘Thanks, Ron, I know what I need to do now.’”
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