Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Among Heroes: Law Enforcement
This Ricci Law Firm post is the first in a series to address the high numbers of North Carolina heroes diagnosed every year with PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD is a disorder that some people develop after experiencing a shocking, scary, or dangerous event. Due to the very nature of their important work, the brave and strong workers in fields like law enforcement, first responders, firefighters, and emergency medicine, risk contracting PTSD.
aw Enforcement Officers at Risk
Today’s post specifically addresses PTSD affecting law enforcement officers. Officers who may be exposed to psychological trauma and PTSD symptoms include the following:
- Local Police (including municipal, state, county, and regional police)
- Special Jurisdiction Police (those protecting defined areas)
- Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the statistics for law enforcement officers are staggering:
- Nearly 1 in 4 police officers has thoughts of suicide at some point in their life.
- The suicide rate for police officers is four times higher than the rate for firefighters.
- In the smallest departments, the suicide rate for officers increases to almost four times the national average.
- More police die by suicide than in the line of duty. In 2017 there were an estimated 140 law enforcement suicides.
- Compared to the general population, law enforcement report much higher rates of depression, PTSD, burnout, and other anxiety related mental health conditions.
Law enforcement officers should be aware of the risks and should be vigilant in seeking help if they believe they have developed PTSD or any related condition.
What are the symptoms?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of PTSD vary widely and may include any of the following:
- Re-experiencing symptoms (flashbacks, nightmares, sweating, racing heart, scary thoughts)
- Avoidance symptoms (avoiding certain activity, places, or people that remind the victim of the trauma)
- Arousal and reactivity symptoms (being easily startled, feeling tense, having sleeping difficulties, having angry outbursts)
- Cognition and mood symptoms (forgetting details of the event, feeling negatively, feeling guilt or blame, losing interest in activities, detaching from family and friends)
Some other problems closely associated with PTSD include panic disorders, alcoholism, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and even thoughts of suicide. In the case of law enforcement officers, many victims lose the ability to hold or see a weapon; to drive a car; or to enter certain premises if they remind the officer of the scene of the event. In other cases, law enforcement officers experience personality changes, distance themselves from friends and family, and become easily angered.
What help is available?
Many law enforcement officers now understand their increased risk and regularly seek medical or psychiatric treatment for their conditions. As more information about PTSD comes to light, law enforcement officers increasingly seek psychiatric support, counseling, peer mentoring, and group therapy. North Carolina law enforcement officers who develop PTSD because of experiencing an accident, witnessing an act of violence, or undergoing some other traumatic event while performing their job duties may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits, which may include disability payments and medical costs, often assist them during their recovery.
If you or a loved one is a law enforcement officer who may be affected by PTSD, contact Ricci Law Firm.