Do You Have PTSD?

Do you have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?  It’s alarming how many people in law enforcement may be suffering with it.  I know that when I took a PTSD indicator survey two years after I retired I scored a lot higher than I had expected. I’ve read lots of conflicting statistics about how many police officers have or could have the symptoms of PTSD, but statistics can be misleading just as much as ignorance of the issues of mental wellness.  Some of you may not meet the criteria for the diagnosis but are still suffering from the effects of excessive or un-managed stress.

The important question is how many of us in law enforcement have the symptoms of PTSD or other types of distress and those symptoms are causing problems with our work or home life. More importantly how many of us are not working to manage these problems because of fear of losing a job or being rejected as weak by our peers.

Get Help Now – Call “Safe Call Now” it’s confidential 206-459-3020

What is PTSD?

A brief description of the diagnostic criteria… for PTSD include an exposure to a traumatic event and you must also meet two criteria and symptoms from each of three symptom clusters. Those clusters include: intrusive recollections, avoidance behaviors or emotional numbing symptoms, as well as hyper-arousal or hypervigilance symptoms. The fifth criterion discusses the duration of symptoms and a sixth criterion has to do with functioning.

For a more complete definition visit the National Center for PTSD by CLICKING HERE to look at their materials that provide a comprehensive definition and explanation of all the prevalent rates and risk factors

The diagnostic criteria for PTSD are very complicated and even under debate as the American Psychiatric Association prepares the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual DSM-5 for release.

The shortest definitions are about a page in length and involve a lot of criteria for inclusion in a diagnosis.

You can read the definitions and compare the proposed revisions for the new DSM-V vs. the current DSM-IV’s criterion by CLICKING HERE.  The link will take you to the APA’s DSM-5 Development website where they have tabs that let you compare the wording from each edition.

The important questions are about how we are managing this problem. What are we doing to take care or heal ourselves, and what are we doing to look out for our peers?

Our first step should be educating ourselves about this issue, then we should acknowledge that cops get negatively affected by our jobs and that’s normal. Finally we should take some action toward managing this problem.

We need to put in place mechanisms to armor ourselves against the toxic effects of our jobs as well as recognizing that these things are normal. Just as we would seek medical attention for an on the job physical injury we need to seek treatment for on the job emotional injuries as well. Most importantly we need to seek those treatments early before the issues become difficult too manage.

Finally we need to create a culture within our profession that does NOT avoid, nor minimize, the importance of mental, emotional or even spiritual health maintenance. We need to have these strategies be as important a part of our regular training and conditioning programs as our physical fitness programs are.

Awareness Begins Now

June is PTSD Awareness Month here in the United States.

The National Center for PTSD thru the U.S. Veteran’s Administration is providing lots of great information on their website CLICK HERE.

The National Center for PTSD is emphasizing these themes for the month:
Week 1: How I knew I had PTSD
Week 2: My family suffered
Week 3: Hear how treatment helped me
Week 4: My advice: Don’t wait

Visit the website and learn from the sections labeled:
Symptoms of PTSD
Use the Trauma Symptom Checklist: Where to Begin. Print to share with a doctor or counselor.
Providers: Learn the basics. Watch the course What is PTSD?.
Share the basics. Download, print, or watch Understanding PTSD.
Download the PTSD Coach mobile app to help cope with symptoms.

Get a free copy of our roll call discussion guide on “The Police PTSD Paradox” by CLICKING HERE.

Consider bringing in one of our trainers to provide our Armor Your Self™ training at your agency or conference. This training program is a powerful seminar that will help you begin building the foundations of law enforcement health and wellness for you and for your organization. This program teaches how to add physical, mental, emotional and spiritual components to your regular training program. You will also find the tools you need to recognize the symptoms of the toxic effects of a career in law enforcement and be able to create a plan for your survival as well as for your team and organization. To learn more CLICK HERE.

The West Coast Post-Trauma Retreat Program is developing a survey to better measure trauma-related symptoms for first responders. Your responses are collected anonymously through their website as part of a pilot project. The survey includes questions about general demographics, stressful life events/critical incidents, and trauma symptoms. A progress bar at the top shows the percentage of items completed. The time it takes to complete varies from 20 minutes up to an hour.
CLICK HERE to take their Trauma Survey.

Maybe you don’t have PTSD but you are suffering, where do you turn?

Try the self assessment page on the Safe Call Now website by CLICKING HERE.

Get Help Now – Call Safe Call Now it’s confidential 206-459-3020

Safe Call Now is a resource for public safety employees to speak confidentially with officers, former law enforcement officers, public safety professionals and/or mental healthcare providers who are familiar with your line of work.

The people at Safe Call Now say to you: “Public Safety is a stressful, demanding career. Warning signs exist. For many of us, asking for help is a sign of weakness and jeopardizes our careers. Before you lose another friend, partner, spouse, one of your own, consider a simple phone call to us.” Make a Safe Call today for help: 206-459-3020

Create a Culture that Cares with True Blue Valor™

The concept of True Blue Valor™ describes a situation where a police officer has the courage to confront a peer who is slipping professionally and personally and endangering themselves, their peers and the public. In order to facilitate such an act it takes a complete system of organizational support and professional leadership to foster and encourage the concept of True Blue Valor™. All of this is necessary so that officers will risk taking a chance to help a peer who is in trouble. We are currently developing a True Blue Valor™ Instructors training program that you can bring to your agency to promote this concept. To learn more CLICK HERE.

Other Resources for Cops and their Families:

Check out Jeff Shannon’s excellent blog on police mental health issues and take his “Laugh Challenge” by CLICKING HERE and read his review of Jimmy Bremner’s book “Crack in the Armor: A Police Officer’s Guide to Surviving Post Traumatic Stress Disorder”.  Bremmer suggests that officers are emotionally unprepared for the fallout of firing a fatal shot or dodging a bullet, and explains how he wants to bring emotional training to the forefront of the industry.  Learn more by CLICKING HERE.

Read thoughts from Ilona Meagher of the Stressing Fitness Blog (the creator of the PTSD Combat Blog)

Her PTSD Combat Blog is no longer updated but still has some good information as it was the online journal of Ilona Meagher, a veteran’s daughter and author of Moving a Nation to Care: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and America’s Returning Troops.

Learn more about Police PTSD at by CLICKING HERE.

Read a University of Caliornia Article “Police Officers Who Experience Traumatic Event Have Greatest Risk of PTSD” by CLICKING HERE.

A good list of PTSD symptoms can be found on the Tears of a Cop website by CLICKING HERE.

The issues we are talking about here really might not be affecting you, but it might be an issue for someone you know, work with, or love. This information is as important for cops as it is for police dispatchers, police officer spouses and law enforcement families. If you work or care about someone in law enforcement, corrections, probation, parole or any other branch of law enforcement you need to learn more and take some action to help now. This is a team effort, and we need all the help we can get.

Stay Safe and Stay Well!

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. 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 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.

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 career. We call this Tactical Wellness planning.

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 contact us to learn more about training for your organization.

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

About Editor

John Marx was a Police Officer for twenty-three years and served as a Hostage Negotiator for nineteen of those years. He worked as a patrol officer, media liaison officer, crime prevention officer and burglary detective. Also during his career he served as administrator of his city's Community Oriented Governance initiative through the police department's Community Policing project. Today John combines his skills to consult with businesses about improving both their security and their customer service programs. John retired from law enforcement in 2002. When one of his friends, also a former police officer, committed suicide at age 38, John was devastated and began researching the problems that stress creates for police officers. He decided he needed to do something to help change those problems and he wanted to give something back to the profession that gave him so much. He started a project that has evolved into Put simply, the mission of CopsAlive is to save the lives of those who save lives! gathers information, strategies and tools to help law enforcement professionals plan for happy, healthy and successful careers, relationships and lives.
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  1. I’m sorry that you are feeling so alone. You can always reach out to the people at Safe Call Now at 1-206-459-3020 or visit their website at and they have an excellent list of resources that might be able to help you. You comment here might also gather support from our readers. Are you in the U.S. and if so what state do you live in?

  2. I’ve been out of emergency services for over a year now after 18 years service. Why is now that I’m dealing with this? I’ve never felt more alone and there’s no support network that I know of.

  3. Hello. I agree 100 percent about the PTSD issue with law enforcement and the FOP push to get it recognized by Workers comp. I do hope the leaders at FOP and the people who are looking at this make sure they write into any bill/law they support that if the officer is diagnosed this cannot be used later on against the officers as a excuse to label them dangerous and exclude them from carrying a firearm after they are retired. If you remember the PTSD issue with returning military personel has already been a reason to confiscate guns , deny CCW permits . I just don’t want the anti gun politicians to later include PTSD as a reason to deny access to your gun rights because they are already discussing this in their gun mental health legislation. We need to make sure there are protections written into any bills supported by the FOP.

  4. Every day when I wake up I have to decide if I’m going to be a survivor of PTSD another day. It’s unbelievable how behind LE is in dealing with mostly preventable psychological trauma. I’m here to help any LEO or military who need direction in how to start coping.

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  6. Pingback: Today is National PTSD Awareness Day | Cops Alive | Police Stress and Health - Career Survival

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