How many current and former law enforcement officers are out there suffering with mental and physical injuries; and how do we help them? Listen to our interview with a former officer who talks about his battles with PTSD and the injuries that forced his retirement.
Recently I had a chance to have a very candid discussion with “M” a retired officer from a mid-sized police department in the eastern United States.. “M” asked that I not use his name to protect his privacy, but he had some interesting things to say about his struggle with PTSD and the injuries that forced him to leave the job he loved.
You can listen to our… 34 minute discussion by clicking the replay button below or RIGHT CLICK HERE to download (that’s CONTROL CLICK if you use a Mac then SAVE LINK AS…) a copy of the mp3 file.
“M” was very candid about what he has suffered and why he wanted to talk about it. He said “For me it wasn’t one incident that began the process of PTSD and to be honest I didn’t even know I had it until friends came back from Iraq. I noticed the changes in them before I noticed the high risk behavior and violence that I was engaging in.”
He also was honest about the importance of seeking help. He told me “I have sought help and it has made a difference but I think more should be done to help all officers. The problem with seeking help is that it can be brought up in court to make you look like a mental patient during a trial. I believe that all officers should be made to see a councilor during annual updates so that officers who need help bad are not punished for it.”
“M” made no bones about being bitter about what happened to him. He said: “I spend the day shredding all my old police documents and stuff that reminds me of the place and job”, but he was very open to talking about it if it would help other officers. He said to me: “I would be open to doing an interview because I think there is something that can be gained from what I have been through, and if I could help even one cop who may be depressed it would be my honor.”
“M” offered some suggestions for other officers suffering with an injury or on-the-job stresses:
“You need to be the change in your own life”.
You need to have a “Plan B” if your police career doesn’t work out.
Have an exit strategy for your career with something to fall back on for income.
Don’t dwell on your problems, keep yourself busy (he finished his college degree).
“Stress is like a poison” it will eat away at you until you do something about it.
Buy your own secondary or supplemental insurance policy.
Seek help early in your career when stress over takes you.
Keep fighting, don’t give up!
Some things “M” did to take care of himself:
He searched for a long time until he found a therapist that could, and would help him.
He stopped dwelling on the past.
He cleared out old memories.
He focused on the “Now” not the “Past”.
He went back and finished his college degree.
He started his own company.
Finally, he offers two thoughts for the future of law enforcement:
1. We should reform our culture and require annual mental health evaluations so they would just be part of the job, and not unusual
2. We should offer classes on stress management and have easy access to mental health services
My thanks go out to “M” for having the courage to talk about what he’s been through and his willingness to help other cops survive the job.
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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.
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. Thank you for reading!
Thanks for your comment. Yes, “M” was wise enough to realize that he had to have a financial “backup plan” BEFORE he needed it and was able to finish his degree and start a business that could replace his police salary. His advice to other officers is invaluable, I just hope they will listen!
Thanks to “M” for pointing out the need for officers to avoid becoming locked in to law enforcement as their only option, whether that occurs due to mental, emotional, or financial factors. And thanks to you, John, for continued excellence in information sharing for the good of all in this noble profession.