Tuesday, November 29th, 2011 by

The Police PTSD Paradox

The Problems with Police PTSD – A Call for Comments

Editors Note: This is a very important topic to law enforcement officers all  around the world.  Please leave your comments in the box below so we can start a dialogue on this very important issue.

We have a Police PTSD Crisis: “Take care of our own” v.s. “Throwaway Cops”

We have a problem in our profession.  It has to do with excessive stress caused by the job of law enforcement and, in it’s extreme form, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.  We all know that the stress from this job can be toxic and at times debilitating.  What we don’t seem to believe is that it can happen to us, or someone we work with, because when it does, we don’t know what to do about it.   We seem to have created a paradox, which is a contradiction or a situation that seems to defy logic or intuition.

The Police PTSD Paradox is created by… the fact that we all know that stress can disable or incapacitate us on the job but when that happens to one of our own we defy logic and begin to shun them.  Some agencies even do their best to throw those cops away because they feel like they are tainted or might create a liability.  In many cases insurance programs don’t provide for the proper medical or mental health treatments, or enough treatment, and our medical leave programs seem wholly inadequate to respond to these situations.  None of these categories seem to fit into a system for disability insurance and affected officers are left in limbo.  It may just be an educational issue that we don’t fully understand the effects of stress or the causes of PTSD.

You see the crisis is not that police officers are getting PTSD, the crisis comes when agencies don’t know how to help an officer with PTSD and they treat them poorly or worse, throw them away.

I can’t count the number of calls and emails we have received at CopsAlive.com in the last six months from officers, or their family members, describing the way that officer stress is being handled by their agencies.  Some stories are sad, some are tragic and some are down right despicable.

As a profession we need to develop an understanding that this job has toxic side effects and we need to first, armor ourselves against those effects and secondly, prepare ourselves and our agencies for dealing with them when they occur.

The U.S. Military is combating this same issue, perhaps in greater numbers, right now with many of the veterans that are returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If you dig deeper the issue is not just with PTSD, which has a clear set of diagnostic criteria, but with the effects of other, less acute or, cumulative stress disorders.  The point is that we don’t know what to do with officers who are suffering from the effects of stress brought on by their experiences on the job.

This blog has many times reported on the “hidden dangers” of law enforcement to include alcoholism,  prescription drug abuse, divorce, police officer suicide, heart disease, cancer, officer domestic violence, financial mismanagement by officers and other symptoms of people suffering from excessive stresses, burnout or even major depression.  We now need to address how we will deal with the root causes of these symptoms: excessive stress.

We as a profession need to start talking about this issue and we need to come up with some solutions quickly as many, many of our comrades are falling by the wayside with these symptoms each and every day.

Please add your comments to the box below to join in this discussion online and CLICK HERE if you would like to download a roll call discussion guide on the issue of what to do with a peer who is suffering from excessive stress caused by the job.

CLICK HERE to download our CopsAlive.com “Prescription for Stress Management” roll call discussion guide.

The Veterans Administration National Center for PTSD website is an excellent resource.  Check the area labeled “Search PILOTS to find published articles: PILOTS (Published International Literature on Traumatic Stress) is the largest database of publications on PTSD.”  There is also a box labelled “Where to get help for PTSD”.

The VA site is here:    http://www.ptsd.va.gov/

We always encourage anyone experiencing severe or crisis symptoms to call the “Safe Call Now” Hotline for first responders at (206) 459-3020.  You can also learn more about Safe Call Now by visiting their website at: http://www.safecallnow.org/

We will help your agency create the kind of place that supports and protects officers so that they can do their jobs better, safer, longer and survive to tell their grand kids all about it.

CopsAlive is written to prompt discussions within our profession about the issues of law enforcement career survival.  We invite you to share your opinions in the Comment Box that is at the bottom of this article.

CopsAlive.com was founded to provide information and strategies to help police officers successfully survive their careers.  We help law enforcement officers and their agencies prepare for the risks that threaten their existence.

We do this by Helping Law Enforcement professionals plan for happy, healthy and successful lives on the job and beyond.  We think the best strategy is for each officer to create a tactical plan for their own life and

The Law Enforcement Survival Institute (LESI) works with individuals and organizations to help them create and sustain success in their lives and careers as law enforcement professionals.  It is the primary goal of The Law Enforcement Survival Institute to become the preeminent source for training, resources and information about how to create and sustain a happy, healthy and successful life and career while providing superior law enforcement service to your community.

At The Law Enforcement Survival Institute we train law enforcement officers to cope with stress and manage all the toxic effects and hidden dangers of a career in law enforcement.

We provide stress management and Tactical Wellness for police officers and other law enforcement professionals.

CLICK HERE to read more about The Law Enforcement Survival Institute.

CLICK HERE if you would like to send us an email to learn more about training for your organization.

I’m John Marx, Founder of The Law Enforcement Survival Institute and the Editor of CopsAlive.com.  Connect with me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

61 Comments

  • Hello John,

    Thanks for being another voice that is willing to shed light on a critical need in law enforcement. For over twenty years I have marched against the resistance in police agencies, in the police culture, and among some police officers who aspire to the notion that it’s inappropriate to ask for help, share your thoughts and feelings about a call or seek professional help on your own. Those officers who seek help face the fear of reprisal from fellow officers which preclude them from sharing their experiences with other offices.
    As a retired cop and now a clinician who helps cops deal with the strains and stressors of the job I see firsthand how the job has changed lives. As a consultant who works with police agencies to change policy and implement intervention strategies the core issues that need to be addressed in preventing duty-related stress are leadership, organizational climate and finding the right people to educate and care for your officers.
    Police administrators need to care about their people. If it starts at the top it stands a better chance at creating long term change. Agencies need to offer leadership training that focuses on building a resilient police environment through supportive supervision, mentoring programs, peer support teams, and the use of coaching. These techniques aid and assist officers in their ability to manage and make meaning of stress events and as well as in the performance and function of their duties.
    Police agencies need to enlist the help of well qualified clinicians who can bridge the divide between mental health professionals and law enforcement. Cops are suspicious by nature. The last thing an agency wants to do is bring in a mental health counselor who knows nothing about the job and fails to make the connection between the stress of policing and an officer’s mental health and well-being.
    Education on mental health should be job related. The clinician or trainer needs to develop training that speaks to the issues facing officers while at the same time meets the agency’s needs. For example, in today’s economy with unfilled vacancies and layoffs what agency can afford to take officers off the street for a block of training? Training needs to be designed in a way where officers can get the right information to keep themselves healthy while at the same time keeping their shifts fully staffed. I developed a series of “roll call trainings” that hold officers in roll call for an extra 20 to 30 minutes providing useful information and then they hit the road. During this time we focus on specific topics and topics can change every week, month etc. You provide them with the information and resources they need so they can seek the help they want.
    Clinicians/trainers also need to fully understand the police culture. They need to spend time around the police agencies, interacting with officers and learning more about their job. Doing a few ride-alongs and then wanting officers to talk about themselves just doesn’t work. Some agencies have EAP (Employee Assistance programs) or MAPS (Members Assistance programs) that provide employees with resources such as mental health counseling, legal counseling, etc. These types of programs are very helpful…if you can get officers to use their services. Finding a mental health professional who understands the job can be a challenge, but when you do it makes all the difference.
    We need to do a better job at caring for our own.

  • Hi Sonny,
    Well said! I’m hoping that more and more people will throw in their opinions on this article so that we might start a worldwide discussion about these issues, and perhaps make some real changes.
    Stay safe!

  • Howard "Jake" Jaquay
    November 30th, 2011 at 11:35 am

    Excellent discussion on a very worthwhile topic. I recall that a critical period in an officer’s career is between the 12th and 18th years. This speaks to the buildup of stress effects, including traumatic events as well as the day-to-day stresses. I have seen the effect of these stresses in officers during my 32 years in law enforcement, and in soldiers in wartime. My personal interest comes from having taught stress management, and from working with departments and officers on achieving financial stability, which I believe is one means of enhancing the officer’s sense of control of circumstances. This sense of control is useful in combating the debilitating effects of stress. Keep up the good work!

  • John,

    Do you know of any grants that agencies can apply for to address this dilemna?

  • Hi Jake,

    Thank you for your thoughts. I welcome the perspective based on your many years of service. Thank you also for all that you are doing to teach cops and others about the proper way to manage their finances. Most people really need to maintain better controls in that area and, as you say, this can really help to reduce their stress load.

  • Hi Sonny,
    I don’t know of any and I’m not sure this is an area where money is the problem. Much of this issue centers around our “police culture” and how we deal or don’t deal with our problems. One of the biggest issues in my opinion is for cops to start discussing these issues now, before they have a problem and then to start to examine the resources that are available to help them once they do have a problem. In many cases the resources are not in place to assist the officers or the administrators and then everyone is stuck between the rock and a hard place.

  • I agree. The culture has not given recognition to the seriousness of the problem…but that is changing slowly. Since budgets are tight agencies face a greater challenge in enlisting the help of professionals who know the culture and who can make a difference. I also do not want to discount the efforts made by officers who triumphantly take on this crusade from within their perspective departments. That being the case, these officers should be given access to funding that furthers their efforts and can allow for different guest speakers, police trainers and outside events that focus on strategies to address this critical need. Funding could also aid the startup of a peer support team and pay for its monthly training or enhance an existing training program.
    This also relates to my comment that Police Administrators need to be serious about caring for their people. Let’s face it, what training budgets have any allocation for personal wellness or stress management? Agencies need to be committed and make psychological training a staple of its training protocol. One way to help the agency would be to fund its efforts.
    As a matter of fact, the Internet Cranes against Children Task Force have federally allocated funds to provide a mental health counselor for its investigators. Dealing with abused and exploited children is ranked as the 4th highest stressor in police work. Stressor ranked 1, 2, and 3 are all related to the patrol officer: 1) Killing someone in the line of duty; 2) losing a partner in the line of duty; 3) having a near death experience yourself. This being said…where is the funding for stressors 1, 2, and 3?
    I have been researching funding for police health issues and CANNOT find any. This goes to show you that it’s not only the culture that has failed to recognize the need but also the national justice system as a whole.

  • John ..this may be of interest

    http://www.wcax.com/…/tragic-cases-like-celina-cass-a-challenge-for-…

  • Thank you Sonny for all your input. I’m wondering if anyone else out there knows of any funding for police wellness programs.

    I know that some departments are now creating their own internal wellness units. I know of units in Chicago PD, Denver PD, and San Diego PD just started one.

    Anyone else want to brag about their program?

  • Hey John, fantastic article on PTSD. What struck a cord with me was your statement of take care of our own vs. throwaway the cop. This is what happened to me. Get rid of the cop instead of helping them.

    I applaud you for what you are doing to make Law Enforcement a successful, healthy and happy career.

    As a retired cop and survivor of PTSD we must rally together to change the culture from the top of these organizations that it is okay to ask for help.

    I look forward to staying in touch. Please stop by my blog, AchieveSuccessAcademy.Wordpress.com, Facebook/AchieveSuccessAcademy as well as viewing my videos on YouTube (search my name or by acheve success academy) regarding overcoming PTSD, achieving success after Law Enforcement and so much more.

    To your Success!
    JRS

  • Hi John,

    Thank you for your comment and I’m very sorry to hear what you had to go through. I visited your blog and really liked the article you posted on “PTSD: Overcoming Tragic Events or Thoughts to a Fulfilling Successful Life”

    and the information you had available on YouTube about PTSD I think would really help others who are suffering PTSD symptoms but don’t know what to do about it.
    Stay safe and stay in touch!
    John

  • Thanks for the article. Hopefully the mindset will change for the better. We must remember that Police Officers are recruited from only one place…the human race and as such Police Officers have emotions, feelings, faults, strenghts..etc

    I worked for a large PD, over 3,000+ sworn personnel. The dept. knew how to handle an Officer that got into trouble via stress. Fired, suspended. However they had no idea how to handle someone that was suffering that didnt get into any trouble. I was also aware of the TABOO applied to Officers who has suffering from a mental problems. That prevented me from getting help sooner.

    Finally I couldn’t take it anymore. The constant fear of ‘losing it’ at a critial scene. To be honest, I didnt care about myself, but I did care about my fellow officers and the public.

    I got some help and told the Dept, I felt that they needed to know…Big mistake. My peers viewed me as damage goods, not all, but most. The higher up seen me to the Dept. doctor that realize I was suffering from PTSD.

    I dont blame the dept., I didnt know what to do and neither did they. I did have some bitterness at my fellow officers in the sense that I would always help them and in my moment of need they treated me like a pariah. OUCH.

    I hope the that with better knowledge, we can have a better understanding the toll of Police work can take on a person.

    If I can be of any assistance, please contact me at my e-mail address I left.

  • Hi Rich,

    Thank you for your feedback. I’m very sorry for what you had to go through but I appreciate your willingness to share your story and still have an attitude of wanting to help your fellow officers. I hope your path through the rest of your life goes more smoothly and I thank you for your service to your community. I will contact you directly to see how we can learn more from your story.

  • hello i am a disabled police officer who has had nothing but pain and heartache from my agency after being in a shooting of a teenager i did not shoot him i was talking to him when he was shot,

  • A 25 year vetern Police Officer told me this about Himself.

    For 25 years I have told myself I was handling all the horrible and negative things I saw as a Police Officer.
    I would cram all these thoughts and experiences into a locked box in my head.

    One day, I froze in the middle of very busy intersection, and could not move. Its like the box in my head broke open and all these demons of 25 years were running around in my head and would not get back in the box.

    Most Depts. will not deal with P.T.S.D. and very good officers are paying the price.

  • Hi Audie,

    Thanks for that story. It does a great job of summarizing the big problem we are all facing in law enforcement and that’s how to manage the stress of a full career in this job. We will keep fighting to help officers and agencies put in place the systems needed to deal with this problem. Check out our Armor Your Self and Armor Your Agency training programs.

    Stay safe!

  • I am a former Deputy Sheriff in FL and a former Correctional Officer Sergeant. I currently am working on my dissertation for my PhD. The topic of my dissertation is how the daily trauma witnessed by Emergency Care Workers affects their life experience if they do not receive mental health treatment for PTSD. I also want to cover the stigma associated with mental health treatment and the police subculture. I feel this is a very important topic and is SO overlooked by everyone.

  • Hi Michelle,
    Thank you for your comment and good luck on your PhD. Please stay in touch and let us know how we can help you.
    Stay safe!

  • I am in the middle of this process. This process has been incredibly difficult. The process has made the issues worse. When it comes right down to it they don’t care. It is very clear that it was easier to cast me aside. The toll this has taken a huge toll on me and my family. I could go on and on but the bottom line is that they don’t care!

  • I’d love to hear stories about a police officers struggle with PTSD and avenues that they have to help. My father was a police officer for 16 years and after his career his life ended up going very poorly. Substance abuse, violent tendencies, and abusive relationships became a norm. In and out of lockup is now the life I see him living. It’s a shame and I truly believe it’s entirely to do with his job and his lack of ability to admit he has a problem. If anyone has any information on PTSD treaments, the stigma within a department, or any good websites I can get further information I’d appreciate it, as I chose this topic to do my next speech on in my local community college. I feel that I’ve been robbed of a father because of his career choice, and it’s not something I’ve ever come to terms with.
    my email is delyosius@gmail.com Thank you in advance.

  • Hi Paul,

    I’m sorry for what you are going through, but appreciate your sharing a little of your story here. There are a lot of people reading this that believe that they are alone, and your comments let everyone know that they are not alone and that others are suffering too. Now we all need to work together to find ways to help you, the others and those who will will unfortunately follow in the future. Thanks for reading and please add your comments with your experiences when you feel comfortable.

  • Hello Daniel,

    Thank you for your comment. Your request will help others out there reading realize that they have something to share that is a story that only they can tell. We at CopsAlive.com will continue to work to bring stories to light about law enforcement officers who are suffering and we will continue to work as best as we can to help as many as we can with what we learn, and in the trainings we provide to try to prevent overwhelming trauma from ruining careers.

  • I have a few questions, and statements. I was a Corrections Officer for 17 years in two states. I saw the worst of people on a daily basis, violent fights, stabbings, suicides and attempts. As a supervisor (Sergeant) my troops looked to me with their problems dealing with the almost daily violence and hightened stress of the job. I was able to help them as much as I could, but some of the things I saw in them were disturbing. Bad relationships, violence at home, depression, drinking and drugs. All this weighed on me heavily and in several cases I asked for help from EAP to get the Officers help. I have no way of knowing what actually happened with them due to confidentiality issues. I went through several very violent situations while on the job, and saw several people die, one in my own lap. I saw myself fall into a depression, i didn’t sleep well and still don’t I also gained lots of weight. I can remember nearly every sound, sight and smell of the incident and sometimes that incident is replayed like a movie in my own head because of it. I get sweats, can’t concentrate and have a heightend sense of fear, anger and blame myself for that persons death. It was many years ago and sometimes i still go through extended bouts of these symptoms. While employed there I asked my Lt. for help, he was not willing, or not able to point me in the right direction. I asked the EAP for help and they told me that i would be placed on administrative leave if i went through with the eval due to the nature of my work. I chose not to do it because of the “crazy” stigma I would have attached to me. I struggle with the symptoms and it affects my life at home, socially and professionaly now. I have lost the weight i gained, took up running, quit drinking as well. I also changed jobs, but none of this is working to my satisfaction. Are there programs to help? where do I start? I really want to feel normal again, and not like i am out of control anymore. Please help put me in the right direction.

  • Hi Shane,

    First of all thank you for sharing your experiences here and thank you for your service. I’m sorry for what you have experienced but you are to be congratulated on all that you have done to strengthen yourself and work through the stresses you have confronted. At CopsAlive.com and The Law Enforcement Survival Institute we are working hard at turning our Armor Your Self on-site training program into an online program so please look for that in the new year. In the mean time there are some great resources out there. Here is some information to help you.

    Police Stress Resources from the CDC
    http://blogs.cdc.gov/niosh-science-blog/police-stress-resources/

    Holistic treatments help Soldiers battle PTSD
    May 30, 2012
    http://www.army.mil/article/80772/Holistic_treatments_help_Soldiers_battle_PTSD/

    VA Free Resources for Printing
    http://www.ptsd.va.gov/about/print-materials/Materials_for_Printing.asp

    Good articles on About.com
    http://ptsd.about.com/od/ptsdbasics/a/PTSDmyths.htm?r=et
    http://ptsd.about.com/od/symptomsanddiagnosis/a/PTSDsymptoms.htm

    The Veterans Administration National Center for PTSD. Check the area in the lower right of the page labeled “Search PILOTS to find published articles: PILOTS (Published International Literature on Traumatic Stress) is the largest database of publications on PTSD.” There is also a box labelled “Where to get help for PTSD”.

    The VA site is here: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/

    New Study: “police officers are no more likely than the general population to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)”
    Read it: “Interventions Help Police Officers Manage PTSD”
    http://psychcentral.com/news/2011/11/24/interventions-help-police-officers-manage-ptsd/31859.html accessed June 7, 2012
    and
    http://www.nouvelles.umontreal.ca/udem-news/news/20111122-post-traumatic-stress-risk-to-police-officers-lower-than-previously-thought.html
    and
    https://www.irsst.qc.ca/en/-irsst-publication-predictive-factors-development-post-traumatic-stress-disorder-following-critical-accident-involving-police-officers-r-710.html

    Current Research:
    3 Other Sources for Violanti’s BCOPS Study Findings:
    Police Officer Stress Creates Significant Health Risks Compared to General Population, Study Finds
    https://www.buffalo.edu/news/13532

    Serious Health Risks Among Police Officers Due To Stress
    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/247781.php

    On-the-Job Stress Negatively Impacts Police Officer Health, Study Suggests
    http://ehstoday.com/print/health/job-stress-negatively-impacts-police-officer-health-study-suggests?page=2

    Treatment Info:
    Effective treatments for PTSD exist. Learn about treatment options and care after trauma. (NOTE: The National Center for PTSD does not provide direct clinical care or individual referrals.**) Resources on page PDF and Flash Video
    http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/gen-treatment.asp

    Good luck to you!

  • As the spouse of a 30 yr veteran of law enforcement in FL whose delayed-onset PTSD has followed classic dysfunction, I share your pain.
    It is critical upon discovery of early symptoms that the officer be lead to intervention and treatment. Untreated, this disorder becomes highly disabling. A diligent research and understanding of PTSD will enable the supporter to take the lead, as the officer may not recognize the urgency or need. With or without resources,
    the following resources are available:
    Employee health insurance for evaluation and treatment; Workman’s Comp for evaluation and
    treatment; private-pay for evaluation and treatment; community support groups for PTSD;
    Veteran’s organizations for support and referrals; community support groups for anxiety related disorders; county health dept for referral; online
    forums for support and knowledge; counseling for spouse and family; university psychiatry/psychology department for referral, etc. Most important is the need to recognize and pursue active treatment upon onset. This does not go away or get better with time. It is treatable and can be controlled and managed with a successful outcome. Utilize your department health insurance coverage and without fail access the department Workman’s Comp insurance while currently employed as this is the key to longterm funding to treat and heal. Friends, you did your time protecting and serving. Make sure your department and the taxpayer protects and serves you in return. All the best to you.

  • Thank you so much for your comments and all your suggestions. It’s great for everyone to hear from someone who has lived through the experience and can share their insights with others. It’s also reassuring for everyone to hear that there are treatments and that they do work.

  • Hi,
    I spent 22 years working first for the Houston Police Department and then The Drug Enforcement Administration. I had an Outstanding Evaluation just prior to seeking help. I was faced with a delelma at work where I had to make “sophie’s choice”; and I just shut down because neither choice was right. I contacted EAP and was put on heavy sedation. I immediately told my poor supervisor what was up and that the meds were messing with my perception. He tried to help me in the best “traditional” way. I.E. pretend you are ok… Take some vacation and come back when you feel better. I started EAP treatments with a vengeance deciding I would give it my best to get back to work. I got worse not better. Between EMDR and Benzodiazapines I was reliving in vivid detail every disgusting event that I had ever wittneesed. From picking up body parts on the freeway to finding dead bodies in airport dumpsters duck taped with star shaped contact wounds to the head, to floaters and stinkers… It got to be too much for me and I became a shut in. I refused to leave my house for a year. My wife was wonderful and saved me. She pulled me through. The agency though, decided I was damaged goods and told me that my future was over with DEA and law enforcement in general if I didn’t “snap out of this”… I asked for a specific job which would not have required me to be involved in the stressors PTSD or cary a gun for that matter. They told me that “you don’t tell us, we tell you”. Since that time I have been lumped in with people who have stolen, broken the law, and lied. I have done non of these things. I am an honorable man. I feel my honor has been taken away from me. Many of the things that led to my PTSD were as a result of my “going the extra mile”. From my experience if what I have seen is the norm, don’t be brave. Let someone else do the hard stuff, you see as it turns out bravery is for suckers. There is no “plan” to deal with this. The plan is wait for them to blow and either fire them or put them in jail.. Problem solved prison or morgue. Much cheaper that way… Just my two cents..

  • Hi Andy,

    Thank you for your comment and thank you for all of your years of service!

    I’m sorry that you have suffered so much trying to do the job that was asked of you in the best way that you could. I’m glad to hear that you had the support of your wife and that you are doing all right.

    This issue is one that is destroying cops all across the world and we need to do something to change the way our police culture deals with cops who are hurting or suffering from the things they have had to do in their jobs. Our mental health is as important to this job as is our physical health but we sure don’t act like it is.

    I encourage you to read our articles here on CopsAlive.com about the concept of True Blue Valor and our work on Armor Your Self.

    Good luck to you and please stay in touch!

  • Throw A-way Cop
    March 11th, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    What a great idea. We had nothing like this in 1987 when PTSD permanently disabled me, not only from law enforcement, but from being able to hold down a job longer than 4 months since. I knew some cops who became disabled in the line, back then all of us were disposable. I wish you well with this endeavor.

  • Hi,

    I’m sorry to hear about what happened to you and thank you for the kind words. You may find other readers here that you share a lot in common with. I encourage you to leave comments whenever a story strikes a chord with you and see what others have to say in their comments.

    Good luck to you!

  • Partner in Crime
    March 21st, 2013 at 8:39 am

    It is critical to address the growing epidemic of law enforcment personnel suffering from PTSD. From the top down in every police agency and organization nationwide, this epidemic needs the same acceptance, awareness, wide-range treatment options, family support, and funding that the military is now providing to U.S. trooops. From the Federal, state and local levels, PTSD must become a new acronym known as an inherent risk associated with law enforcement. Only then will a system of early intervention and treatment offer personnel the essential help needed so that disability is not a result.

    May I suggest that viewers visit http://www.familyofavet.com and review the PTSD pubic relations campaign aimed at awareness, resources, support, funding, advocacy and help for veterans with PTSD? Complete with direct-access online support, volunteer support within communities, and surveys to continue the cause for helping those with PTSD, this organization is a very effective and mainstream support alliance.

    The law enforcement culture needs to establish a similiar online resource to do the same. Offering resources and awareness to law enforcement personnel, police agencies, local, state, national and federal organizations would be an effective means to validate PTSD as a very compelling mental health issue in need of immediate funding, resources and support for men and women in law enforcement.

    More training, re-certifications, in-service training, conferences, rank, education, pep talks, commendations, or anything else isn’t going to solve the PTSD epidemic in law enforcement. Acceptance, awareness, intervention, treatment and agency resources must be committed to our men and women in uniform.

  • Thank you for your comments. Well said!

  • America’s streets are a war zone often enough police, fire, medical personnel are placed in situations that are well known to cause PTSD. Day in and Day out we are exposed with zero treatment or acknowledgement. Some agencies have policies in place to mandate contact with trained personnel after critical incidents. In my case this policy was ignored I thought I could deal with my thoughts, nightmares, lack of sleep, reoccurring thoughts, withdraw from my own kids (it was a child death incident). Three weeks later I crashed a city car after a two day marathon of intrusive thoughts and an evening of self medicating with alcohol. First misconduct in 8 years as a cop, highly decorated file. After a six month investigation and the city not offering me treatment other than a single meeting with their paid dr to basically ensure I wasn’t suicidal. I’m fired from the city. Yes no workers comp treatment nothing. Apparently PTSD doesn’t exist. I sought treatment on my own and was diagnosed with ptsd and depression I released my dr to speak to IA so they would have a more clear picture of what happened. During my interview I was forced to read the file including homicide photos from the child scene which damaged me more and the autopsy. Now however unlike a vet my insurance is ending because I’m unemployed so no more treatment. The city definitely has a pattern of this behavior.

  • Hi John,
    I’m sorry to hear what’s happened to you, but thank you for sharing your story so that others may learn from it and so that we can all work to change our culture so that what happened to you doesn’t happen to others.
    I have heard it suggested that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may cover persons with stress, drug or alcohol issues if they self-report and seek treatment. I would encourage everyone to do their own research on that matter and if someone has some definitive knowledge please share it here.

  • Hello John
    This article is RIGHT ON TARGET. I have received countless emails and phone calls from officers all over the world that have been “thrown away” after a PTSD diagnosis after starting my research for my film “Code 9 Officer Needs Assistance”.

    The stories are unbelievable and down right disgraceful. It is bad enough that these men and women are suffering with such mental anguish and then to have their departments add insult to injury. I am always at a loss for words and heartbroken.

    To treat a human being who is struggling with PTSD with no compassion what so ever is a crime. This has got to change if lives are going to be saved.

  • I’m yet another one of the growing number of throw away cops. In 2006 my best friend and fellow police officer shot and killed himself while I was on the phone with him trying to talk him down. I also had to recover his personal effects and view the in car video of the incident as ordered by by department. I was also assigned to handle the funeral arrangements and notify family of his death. Needless to say I began experiencing symptoms of PTSD shortly after the event. I had no idea why I was having flashbacks, nightmares, inability to sleep, wanting to isolate and a sense of hyper vigilance my department psychologist told me when I asked for time off, why you just have to go right back to it. I struggled alone and ashamed for years to deal with my PTSD and only lasted another 5 months on my department as they began going through my desk and asking other officers to document my “crazy” behavior . I got to the point I took a 9 mm pistol into our bedroom closet and seriously considered putting it to my head and pulling the trigger. My wife came back from work unexpectedly. And was able to get me to seek help . I was hospitalized and treated like I was crazy by staff and the doctors who had little understanding of PTSD. I’ve come along way since those dark days and finally found meaningful treatment and got involved with Code 9 Officer needs assistance and met a multitude of officers in the same situation. I see the need for change legislatively and educationally to change the stigma of PTSD placed on officers by the ignorance of command . It’s time to unite and bring about change. The treatment of officers with PTSD is no longer acceptable and the time for change is now!!!!!

  • Tried to use your link to ask for further information on training for our staff and couldn’t get it to work. Can you please contact me via my email? Thank you. Standing with you and behind you,

    Steffany Baker
    President & Co-Founder ZARZAND Inc

  • Robert D Cubby
    May 1st, 2013 at 7:31 am

    You stated in the article that this just may be a matter of education and I couldn’t agree more. The probelm is this. The police budgets are understandably tight and “down time” for in service courses and instructions have to be strictly managed. Or at least that what I am told by endless police Chiefs when the proposition of educating their officers is offered. Or they have said we don’t have the problem of PTSD in this department. Or the one that really hits hard ” if we open this discussion about PTSD we’ll open the flood gates to all kinds of claims which my department cannot afford.” With roughly 20% of every police officer exhibiting some symptoms of PTSD they are probably correct about the ” flood gates” comment. But to ignore the problem to continue to allow the problem to exist and shut down the discussion with indifference or outright hostility doesn’t change the problem. Perhaps when these police Chiefs saw the dollar amount it costs them every year for untreated police officers remaining on duty that way, or the dollar costs for losing a police officer to ZPTSD or worse yet suicide, maybe there would be a change of heart. The excuse of them not knowing is running pretty thin. For example, most chiefs have attended the FBI National Academy. If they did then they received a 3 1/2 course on police PTSD that the FBI has in their curriculum. So they do know and were educated about the problem. So then to make a conscious decision not to train his or her officers about PTSD and not to set up some kind of counselling’treatment, medical leave and policy within the department but rather abandon and discipline is inexcusable. Just look at what is happening in Newtown, Conn where the effected officers are running out of benefits and soon money because they raced into that school to save those kids. Just wait and see the fallout from West,Texas and Boston, Mass. And yet we sit on our hands and do nothing.

  • You are welcome Deborah, and thank you for all that you are doing to bring awareness to this issue with your film “Code 9 Officer Needs Assistance”.
    Good luck and Keep up the Great Work!

  • Hi Rick,
    I’m am so sorry for what you have had to go through. Thank you for your service in law enforcement and thank you for having the courage to share your story so that others could hear it and some could know that they are not alone.
    Stay Safe Brother, and Take Care of Your Self!

  • Hi Steffany,
    I’m sorry that you had trouble. I send you some information directly via email.

  • Hi Robert,
    Thank you for your comment. I couldn’t have said it better myself!

  • I saw a lot of myself while reading all the posts. I used to be a happy-go-lucky guy, before all the critical incidents. My partner and I found a headless corpse on the railroad tracks, and located other parts (inner and outer) all over the place. We used humor to deal with it…..and I treated it like it wasn’t real. Then I had to stop family members from coming down the tracks. It got real in a hurry. I saw a 10 year old girl with her throat cut from one ear to ear. The guy that cut her throat was lying on the adjacent table waiting for his autopsy. I was upset that she couldn’t get away from her attacker even in death. I think about having the department

  • Hi Alan,
    I appreciate your comments. I’m sorry for what you have had to endure but know that the others reading this will be able to associate their own stories and know that they are not alone in their thoughts and challenges. You dropped off the last sentence. Was there something else you wanted to share?

  • I’m a 20 years police officer who started having issues about 4 years ago. Some events in the last 2 weeks have seemed to push me over the edge. I’m now at a place where I can’t wing it, or fake it anymore and have to tell my superiors that I need help. That fact alone has made me feel even worse. I have no idea how to approach my commander with this or what the reaction of my chief will be. I’ve never heard of anyone from my department (about 1,000 employees) having issues. I don’t know if the department has a counselor on retainer or not. I really wouldn’t feel comfortable going to them if they did. I would prefer to find my own, preferably who specializes in PTSD in police officers. I’m not sure if there are any in Louisiana. With just over 10 years to retirement, I’m afraid I’m about to lose everything.

  • Hi Wayne,
    I’m sorry that you’re having trouble but I salute your courage in writing to us. From all that we hear the response is mixed to an officer who asks for help. Some agencies handle things really well and some do not. The bottom line is that it sounds like if you don’t get some help your career might come tumbling down anyway and it would be better to take care of yourself first and save your life rather than worrying about your career. Good luck to you and let us know how you do. When we say “Stay Safe” we mean it’s more important to take care of your life than it is to take care of your career. We hope that in your case all will work out and your can have it both ways!

  • I am a disabled 20 year plus ex police officer with ptsd. I have and continue to have and go thru hell with it. I live in Texas and as far as i can tell there is no help here for officers. I see many well wishers but no concrete answers or help. I just hope that all that need help will find it. My story of how I acquired it is long and sad as is the rest of yours and I am just getting too tired to repeat it. I live with it everyday. God bless anybody that has it and goes thru what I have. Its so sad we cannot get anything but well wishes. I have been down so many dead ends that i could just scream. What would the public do if the police just wished them well when they call for service. Money is the problem it cost too much to help us. I lost my job, my home, my friends and a son over this. I do not see this problem getting any better anytime soon. Disabled officers mentally and or physically are as they say just thrown away.

  • Hi Terry,

    I’m very sorry for what you are going through. Thank you for your service and I agree that it’s not right for you to suffer because of the profession you chose and the duty you performed for your community. I don’t have many resources to offer you either. I agree with you that money is often the big issue. Treatment can be expensive and if the insurance you were given doesn’t cover that treatment you, like many others, are left hanging. I will continue to fight to change the way our profession takes care of it’s own, but that doesn’t help you now. Thank you for sharing your story as that will at least let others know what they might face in the future. I can suggest one resource: Go to Facebook and look for PTSD Resource Center of VT I have been told that they are awesome and might be able to help you some moral support or give you some direction. I checked them out and they look great.
    Facebook = https://www.facebook.com/pages/PTSD-Resource-Center-of-VT/206143599472442

    Here is their website: http://ptsdrcvt.wix.com/website
    Contact Them:
    By Mail: P.O.Box 663, Proctor, VT 05765

    Please stay in touch with me and let me know if you find any resources that help you especially in Texas so that I can add those to our list for the next people that ask for help.
    Good luck to you!
    John Marx

  • This is the first time in over forty years I have attempted to reach out to anyone with my story. I’m 70 years old and a police-action-related PTSD survivor. Actually, there were several “actions” but I won’t bore you with my war stories. After what turned out to be the final nail in the coffin of my 6 year police career in Cleveland, Ohio, I took a one month unpaid leave-of-absence to try and get my head back on straight. At that time, as I am sure you will understand, anyone who sought professional counseling for emotional problems was considered afflicted with some sort of contagious disease, demented and useless as a worn out firearm with a broken firing pin. After a month of testing, evaluation anc personal counseling at Case-Western Reserve University in Cleveland, I was still unable to shake my malaise and finally resigned from the department. I left Ohio, later realizing I was only running away from my problems. Foolishly, I gravitated right back into police work against the advise of the doctors at Case, my family and friends. I lasted another fourteen years, bouncing from police job to police job before finally having a breakdown referred to as “emotional exhaustion” and spending a week in a psych ward. This wasn’t my last visit to a mental health facility, either. [The actual time line is slightly altered for literary continuity but is otherwise accurate.] In the end I lost my home, my wife who said I was making her depressed with my depression (an RN, no less), my family and my sense of self-worth. I now live alone in a gradually disintegrating trailer in the southwest desert. I have cancer, diabetes, knees that barely support me, two missing discs from my lower back, etc., ad nauseum. Fortunately, I managed to donate enough to the Social Security Society for the Permanently Indigent to be able to live on a monthly defecation of $1150 and change. MY MESSAGE: THIS CAN HAPPEN TO ANY OFFICER. If you feel as though you just can’t take any more…DON’T !!! It will destroy you !

  • Too crazy, huh?

  • Hi Bob,
    Thanks for your comments here, and thanks for your service! I’m sorry to hear what happened to you. It is an all too familiar story. Thank you for having the courage to share your thoughts here, I hope they will help others, and maybe you too for having shared them. We as a profession need to get over ourselves and realize that our mental health is as important on our last day of work as it was on our first, but if we don’t do anything to care for it, we will suffer. As organizations law enforcement agencies need to realize that we are not human commodities to be used and thrown away. Excellence in policing comes from officers who are self-aware enough to take care of themselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually and from agencies who create support systems and a culture to maintain those officers and their civilian support staffs. We say that “No one gets left behind” but we don’t do a good job at making that statement true. Your story is too common today but maybe when enough suffering officers speak out, the story of those who follow us will not be so tragic. Thanks for your service and thanks for sharing your story.

  • I’m so glad I found this page. A little about myself. I’m a retired 20 year veteran from Baltimore. During my carrier I saw 100′s of murders as most of us have. I have buried two dear friends that were killed in the line of duty. I have been to over 20 police funerals. The daily stresses alone are enormous for police in what we all deal with. On Ash Wednesday of 2005, I was a Detective Sergeant in charge of a non fatal shooting squad. While myself and my Detectives were out on the street backing up another officer we heard gun shots and a fellow officer asking for back within a few blocks of us. We drove up to the scene. As we pulled up the suspect was shooting at a Lt and was chased around the houses in the block. As we exited the car we heard several more gunshots and the suspect came around the houses on the other side and confronted us. One of my Detectives was able to take cover behind a multi-family mailbox in the block the other was behind me. I was in the middle of the street when the suspect stopped about 30 yards from me. He looked in my direction and said “I’m going to kill you”. The suspect then pointed his gun at me and shot several times. I returned fire, the suspect ran around the corner, fell and died. I watched as this young 22 year old boy took his last breath looking at me. A few things I did not know at the time of the incident. One the gun the suspect was using was a stolen Taurus Raging Bull .454 Casull. Two he was completely out of bullets when I killed him. I know hind site is 20/20 but as any officer can tell you after a shooting you analyze what you did over and over in your head. After the shooting was the investigation that lasted a few hours. I was back to work the next night without talking to anyone. I was awarded a silver star, given high 5′s, and called a hero. When I talked to the fire arms unit they said I was very lucky. I was told that “if I had been wearing my vest” and was struck with a round from that gun it would have pulled my vest through my body and killed me. They said if one of the rounds had hit my shoulder it could have ripped my arm from my body. Having two young boys this drove it home for me. I kept thinking about my boys being without a father. I kept dwelling on the fact he ran out of bullets and what if I had not taken the last shot he would still be alive and I would not have taken a life. For a long time I kept things bottled up in me and went on with work like nothing was bothering me. My life started to spin out of control and it was unlike me. I was getting angry for no reason. I was only sleeping 2 to 3 hours a night. I would think about the shooting, his face, and my kids. I would think about the smell of hot apple pie baking in a house on a double homicide I handled on Christmas Eve in 1993. I would see the face of a young mentally ill naked girl holding a knife and gun after she had just killed her mother and 100′s of other homicide and serious incidents I had been involved in. I would see my partner Kevon Gavin as he was crushed under a car of a shooting suspect. I would think about Sergeant Bruce Prothero’s killers as I listened to the murders talk about murdering him during a robbery on a phone of a drug dealer we were on a wiretap on. All these things flooded my mind night after night. Within a year of the shooting I was getting separated. Within 2 years my finances were in shambles. I sat in a bathtub with a gun in my mouth and the only thing that stopped me was the thought of my kids. After 3 years and so much damage I finally looked at myself in the mirror and realized something was really screwed up. I took myself to see a counselor. I can happily say that after I went through 3 years of counseling I am in a much better place in my life. That does not change the damage that was caused to everyone in my path and my family. I’m just happy that I was able to retire from the department in 2012 with 20 years of service. In 2012 CBS New did a story on me and I felt I had to do more. I felt I had to do more to help other officers with problems. I got together with other officers both active and retired to see if we could help. After lots of thought and planning I built a web page and started our group and just launched Ten16.org. In the Baltimore Police Department a Ten16 is your back up. It’s a new venture but we are happy to take any guidance or help from our brothers and sisters. We don’t want to replace anything out there and appreciate copsalive and safecallnow for all they do. We want to be more support for our family. Our goal is to educate young officers of the dangers of PTSD. To provide Peer to Peer support for officers anonymously when they feel stress. We also want to Advocate to Congress for standard rules of practice in dealing with traumatic incidents and officers to take the astigmatism out of it for the officers. Thank you for all you all do here.

  • Hi Rick,

    Thanks for your comment and thanks for your service!

    I’m sorry you had to go through what you did, but I’m glad it turned out all right.

    Good luck with Ten16.org. I checked it out and it looks awesome. There can never be too many of us out hear working to help our brothers and sisters in law enforcement.

    Keep up the good work and let us know if we can do anything to help you.

  • Sixteen years as a police officer had taken its toll on me. Two duivorces, several girl friends, etc etc, After going for help My dept. was more than good to me but unfortunately the department had no where to put me so retirement it was, the only problem was that I fell into some bad habits that come along with being a damaged cop. I was gang stalked thanks to a coworker who hated cops and eventually shunned by some of my brethren. I could not fit in anywhere, I didn’t realize that a cop was all I was and unfortunately I picked a small dept, and in turn I still struggle day to day. I have a run of good days and than PTSD reminds me of the past. Now days when you get into a shooting, they send you to the Doc, unfortunately for me the Doc said if they had sent me than, I would of been Okay. Good Luck to you all and God Bless. Its a great profession.

  • I am very sorry to hear about what happened to you but thank you very much for having the courage to write about it here on CopsAlive.com. Your words may be what’s necessary for agencies to change and may spark one other officer to seek help when they FIRST need it. Thanks for making a difference for someone else!

  • I am a retired LEO with 44 yrs of unbroken service with 3 agencies with ranks from Patrolman to Chief of Police. The majority of my service was either investigating or supervising homicides or death investigations, which number well over 1500. I am now in my 3rd marriage (25 yrs) and have consumed my share of alcohol, which I have now have severely curtailed. I still have nightmares about some of the murder scenes, although they are less frequent. However, certain things still trigger flashbacks, and although I can deal with them, it is hard to relate to my wife what I am going through. Case in point, tonight, her family planned a family outing at a local restaurant and when we arrived, we were told they could not accommodate our large crowd. The person who organized the outing then suggested that we go to another restaurant, which was the scene of a brutal murder that I worked quite a few years ago. I then told my wife and sister-in-law that I could not go there because it would give me flashbacks. My wife responded by saying you need to “get over it”. My reaction was to leave my wife with my in-laws and go home and drink some alcohol. Nobody seems to understand what I feel and I feel that no one really understands what I am going through.

  • Hi Lamar,
    I know what you are going through and there are a lot of other readers of CopsAlive.com who know also. You are not alone, that’s just the first step in knowing that you are going to be all right. You need to get some professional help to work through some of the things that are haunting you. There are lots of great treatments other there now that I know would help you. Don’t give up hope. Keep moving forward and work to ease your memories from the past. If you ever feel alone again please consider calling our good friends at Safe Call Now. It’s a crisis hotline started by cops for cops and other first responders. You can reach them at 1-206-459-3020. Hang in there and keep in touch so that we all will know you are doing okay.

  • Great site that really helps explain the problem. I feel for all those brothers going through PTSD and pray for you. Please check out a website I have created about the problem and what the Colorafo FOP is trying to do about. Thanks. Ptsdcop.com

  • Thanks for your comments and thanks for all you are doing. I sorry that you are having to suffer so much from your experiences.

  • Thrown Away Cop
    April 15th, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    Well written. I actually have lived and currently feel most of the bad that you are pointing out about the “after”. On the very night/day of that this article was posted (11/28/2011, minutes before midnight), I was shot in the face/throat with an AK47 during a traffic stop. The “after” (last 2 + years) is what has nearly killed me…not that night. I am one of those “thrown away cops”…

  • I’m very sorry to hear what’s happened to you, but I thank you for having the courage to share it with the readers of CopsAlive.com. Let me know if there is anything we can do to assist you, and please stay in touch!

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