WHY SHOULD YOU CARE ABOUT PTSD AWARENESS DAY?
We should care about our mental health and the effects of PTSD because law enforcement is a high-risk, high-stress career that exposes all of us to excessive amounts of trauma and tragedy and we ALL need to learn that we can’t cope with all that negative stuff just by surprising it. Good mental health, like good physical health doesn’t come automatically, you have to work to build strength in both areas and taking care of your emotional Self is as important as taking care of your physical Self. When you do become injured physically or emotionally it helps if you understand the issues surrounding your injury and know about your treatment options. Learning about PTSD and other issues that can challenge your mental health can be as important as learning about physical conditions like back injuries and the preventative strategies that can help mitigate those injuries.
In their section on PTSD Basics, the National Center for PTSD operated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says “After a trauma or life-threatening event, it is common to have reactions such as upsetting memories of the event, increased jumpiness, or trouble sleeping. If these reactions do not go away or if they get worse, you may have Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).”
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a… clinical diagnosis that according to the American Psychiatric Association is “a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as. a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault.” Those are things that we may experience every day in law enforcement. The thing about trauma is that different people might experience the same event differently and the same person might experience different effects to the same type of event on different days. Even those of us who work in low crime communities still experience a slow cumulative ‘drip by drip’ effect from the accumulation of low dose negative trauma over the course of our careers.
HOW COMMON IS PTSD IN LAW ENFORCEMENT?
Definitive statistics are hard to pin down, and we definitely need more research into the well being of law enforcement officers but here are some of the best statistics I could find on the pervasiveness of PTSD in law enforcement personnel.
During their 2012 study of law enforcement officer suicides, Badge of Life1 estimated that “15% – 18% (150,000) of officers suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress” as quoted by Officer.com at:
In a thesis article published by Saint Mary’s College of California2 entitled “Recognizing PTSD and mitigating with CBT: A workshop for peace officers” published in 2011 author Erik W. Erickson wrote: “Little data are available to quantify the prevalence of PTSD within peace officers, yet many mental health professionals have posited that the law enforcement profession is considered a high risk vocation in which to develop PTSD. The California State Legislature agrees and has mandated that proper training be given to peace officers.”
In an article originally published in the The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease3 in October of 2009 entitled: Routine Work Environment Stress and PTSD Symptoms in Police Officers the authors said “The incidence of current duty-related PTSD in police officers has been found to vary between 7% and 19%, with greater rates for those with sub-syndromal PTSD.
SYMPTOMS OF PTSD
The National Center for PTSD says there are four types of symptoms of PTSD
1. Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms)
You may have bad memories or nightmares. You even may feel like you’re going through the event again. This is called a flashback.
2. Avoiding situations that remind you of the event
You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event.
3. Negative changes in beliefs and feelings
The way you think about yourself and others may change because of the trauma. You may feel fear, guilt, or shame. Or, you may not be interested in activities you used to enjoy. This is another way to avoid memories.
4. Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal)
You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. Or, you may have trouble concentrating or sleeping.
People with PTSD may also have other problems. These include:
Feelings of hopelessness, shame, or despair
Depression or anxiety
Drinking or drug problems
Physical symptoms or chronic pain
Relationship problems, including divorce
TO LEARN MORE ABOUT PTSD
National Center for PTSD operated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has lots of information available at: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/
Download the article Understanding PTSD and PTSD Treatment (PDF) from the National Center for PTSD at: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/understanding_ptsd/booklet.pdf
THE DSM-V DIAGNOSTIC CRITERIA FOR PTSD
If you want to learn more or gather additional information about the Diagnosis & Criteria for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder as published by the American Psychiatric Association can be found at: http://www.dsm5.org/Documents/PTSD%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf
WHAT CAN WE DO?
I think we ALL need to work to improve our own health, the health of the agencies we work for and to improve our law enforcement culture to make sure that our human resources are actually cared for. Here are some thoughts and resources to help you:
Make It Safe To Ask For Help!
Emotional trauma and injury is in most cases much easier to treat if the injured person seeks help right away rather than letting in trauma fester and grow worse. The Make it Safe Police Officer Initiative is a concept promoted by Police Psychologist Jack Digliani to change the law enforcement culture to make it safe for officers to ask for psychological support.
The Make it Safe Police Officer Initiative is comprised of 12 elements designed to address the frequency of police suicide by changing the police culture, engaging proactive programs, removing perceived stigma in asking for help, and reducing the secondary danger of policing.
CLICK HERE to download the Make it Safe Police Officer Initiative’s program description sheet and implementation guide.
Proactive Annual Check-In (PAC)
The Proactive Annual Check-In is a concept created by Police Psychologist Jack Digliani and provides police officers and other agency employees with a confidential setting within which to share information about current life circumstances. It is a proactive program designed to offer a positive exchange of thoughts, ideas, and information on an annual basis with a staff psychologist, a member of the Peer Support Team, department Chaplain, private counselor, or other support resource. CLICK HERE to download a poster with information about the PAC concept, or visit www..jackdigliani.com
Chiefs Lead The Way
Chiefs Lead The Way is a concept conceived by Marla Friedman Psy.D. PC, Chair of the Police Psychological Services Section of the Illinois Association Of Chiefs Of Police to encourage law enforcement executives to “lead the way” by getting their own “Proactive Health Check-In” with a mental health professional. Learn more with this downloadable PDF document by CLICKING HERE.
Create a culture of True Blue Valor™
True Blue Valor™ is a concept created to change our law enforcement culture to one that is more proactive and supportive of each others overall resilience. Specifically, working as a team to look out for each others physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health and well being. It’s about walking our talk. If you say “I’ve got your back” you should mean it and have the resources to accomplish it.
True Blue Valor™ means having the courage to support your peers in the ways they need to be supported. We all have the courage to run toward the gunfire or into a burning building to save a life but do we have the courage to confront a peer who is slipping professionally or personally and endangering themselves, their peers and the public?
True Blue Valor™ is a program taught by The Law Enforcement Survival Institute or you can license our materials to teach within your agency for as little as $1.00 an officer. You can learn more at: www.LawEnforcementSurvivalInstitute.org/
CLICK HERE to download our CopsAlive.com 10 Minute Roll Call Discussion Guide “Law Enforcement Suicide Prevention – Take Charge”
CLICK HERE to download “Signs Of Excessive Stress & Warning Signs” excerpted from Jack Digliani’s Police & Sheriff Peer Support Team Training Manual
CLICK HERE to download Information on “How To Recover From Traumatic Stress” excerpted from Jack Digliani’s Police & Sheriff Peer Support Team Training Manual
If you are in crisis or need help call “Safe Call Now” 1-206-459-3020 or CLICK HERE to learn more from their website.
CLICK HERE to download our CopsAlive.com 10 Minute Roll Call Discussion Key “The Police PTSD Paradox”
CLICK HERE to download our CopsAlive.com 10 Minute Roll Call Discussion Key “Rx3x” 3x Prescription for Stress Management in LE
Read the Story of “Rx3x – A Prescription for Stress Management in LE” on CopsAlive.com by CLICKING HERE.
CLICK HERE to download Police Psychologist Jack Digliani’s Make it Safe Police Officer Initiative’s program description sheet and his implementation guide.
PolicePTSD.com at: http://www.policeptsd.com
The Pain Behind The Badge
Safe Call Now at: http://www.SafeCallNow.org
IACP’s Center for Officer Safety and Wellness
IACP page for the Breaking the Silence: A National Symposium on Law Enforcement Officer Suicide and Mental Health:
CLICK ON THE RESOURCES TAB of CopsAlive.com (look at the top of this page) for many more resources on a variety of health and wellness topics
FOR FURTHER READING
PTSD Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the Effect on Law Enforcement
By Lt. Samuel S. Stewart of Camp Robinson Police Department in North Little Rock, Arkansas
prepared for Session XXXVII on March 28, 2011
http://www.cji.edu/site/assets/files/1921/post-traumatic-stress-disorder.pdf accessed 6-27-16
Article “Police and PTSD – Once thought to only affect war veterans, PTSD is now known to be a common affliction among first responders.”
published in Police Magazine February 22, 2013 by Dean Scoville
Source: http://www.policemag.com/channel/careers-training/articles/2013/02/police-and-ptsd.aspx accessed 6-27-16
Officer.com article: 2015 Police Suicide Statistics by Pamela Kulbarsh published on Jan 13, 2016
Source: http://www.officer.com/article/12156622/2015-police-suicide-statistics accessed 6-27-16
Erickson, E. W.Recognizing PTSD and mitigating with CBT: A workshop for peace officers thesis] Available from PILOTS: Published International Literature On Traumatic Stress.
Source: http://search.proquest.com/pilots/docview/920066205/7DE45A0F9A634071PQ/6?accountid=28179 accessed 6-27-16
Maguen S, Metzler TJ, McCaslin SE, et al. Routine Work Environment Stress and PTSD Symptoms in Police Officers. The Journal of nervous and mental disease. 2009;197(10):754-760. doi:10.1097/NMD.0b013e3181b975f8. Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3974929/ accessed 6-27-16
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The concept of “True Blue Valor™” is where one law enforcement officer has to muster the courage to confront a peer who is slipping both professionally and personally and endangering themselves, their peers and the public. It takes a system of organizational support and professional leadership to support and foster the concept of courage and intervention. We will train your trainers to deliver this program to your agency.
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