Unlike a physical injury, a mental traumatic injury can happen almost daily when you work in policing… as well as any other first responder capacity. Fire, Ambulance, Corrections, Nurses, Doctors and of course our Military Personnel. The number of RCMP officers recognized by the federal government for suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and related conditions has nearly doubled in five years, according to statistics obtained by The Globe and Mail.
Even with all we know about its effects and ways to treat it, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is common among police officers and continues to take its toll on their lives and those of their families. Police service is an inherently stressful occupation, which often results in both physical (e.g., cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal problems) and psychological symptoms (increased depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder; e.g., Berg et al., 2006).
Most of what people think of PTSD as it relates to trauma suffered by soldiers and those in the military. And, yes this does happen, however, police officers’ PTSD tends to manifest over time, resulting from multiple stress-related experiences. This is better known as cumulative PTSD.
Cumulative PTSD can be even more dangerous than PTSD caused from a single traumatic event, largely because cumulative PTSD is more likely to go unnoticed and untreated. As a result, an officer with cumulative PTSD is less likely to receive treatment. Unlike a physical injury, a mental traumatic injury can happen almost daily. If untreated, officers can become a risk to themselves and others.
Former Toronto Police officer Bill Rusk is the executive director of Badge of Life Canada. He is also a PTSD sufferer. Rusk wants to eradicate the stigma remaining around cops and mental illness. When Tory MP Todd Doherty is asked why there is a need for federal legislation to better protect first responders’ mental health, he questions why it hasn’t been done before.
Doherty said there still exists instances where suffering first responders are told to “suck it up.” “Whether you’re a paramedic, a firefighter, or a police officer, it is a very macho field and industry.”
CAUSES OF PTSD
Numerous events can cause PTSD in police officers, such as hostage situations, dangerous drug busts, responding to fatal accidents, and working other cases that include serious injury or death. But there are many less traumatic situations that can still be extremely stressful for an officer. Other stressful situations include, but are not limited to: long hours; handling people’s bad attitudes; waiting for the next call and not knowing what the situation will be; and even politics within the department. Then, on top of it all, officers are frequently criticized, scrutinized, and investigated for decisions they make. Many of those decisions needing to be made quickly, swiftly and under duress.
SIGNS OF PTSD
If recognized early and treated properly, officers and their families can overcome the debilitating effects of cumulative PTSD. The key to early intervention and treatment is recognizing the signs of PTSD and seeking help sooner rather than later.
Some of the physical signs officers should look for in themselves include:
- Vomiting or nausea
- Chest pain
- Insomnia or nightmares
- Breathing difficulty
- Grinding of teeth
- Profuse sweating
- Pounding heart
- Diarrhea or intestinal upsets
Behavioral signs family members of officers and officers should look for in themselves and in others include:
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Pacing and restlessness
- Emotional outbursts
- Anti-social acts
- Suspicion and paranoia
- Increased alcohol consumption and other substance abuse
Emotional signs include:
- Anxiety or panic
- Intense anger, even rage
The training new recruits receive is simply not enough to prepare them for the reality of the experiences they will face throughout their careers. Many officers are also not adequately equipped with the emotional tools necessary to deal with the emotions they will feel when things happen.
However, awareness continues to grow about the stress and trauma that officers’ experience. Becoming aware of different modalities that can help is key. Techniques such as Time Line Therapy, hypnosis & NLP Coaching can help officers and first responders to overcome, alleviate and diminish the symptoms of PTSD. The Warrior Program in the UK, endorsed by the Royal Family helps Veterans with PTSD using such modalities with great success.
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Lynn Thier will get you there ~ with practical cutting edge methods for making positive shifts, change and performance. Owner of Results Coaching, Consulting & Training, Lynn teaches and consults on how to make change happen. Lynn offers seminars, training’s and programs. Lynn also works with individuals suffering with mental health issues such as Anxiety, Depression & PTSD & Trauma. Connect today ~ www.lynnthier.com