Divorce Rate and Police with PTSD

Who will take care of our officers with PtSD? 

Their families? I know mine would have if they knew what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was.  Your average or normal person cannot share our experiences, they can’t imagine what we do or see.  Many officers try to treat their condition with alcohol or reckless behavior.  They use the alcohol to turn off the noise, shut out the visions, and thoughts.  As a result they use reckless behavior to punish themselves and sometimes push themselves to the point of suicide.   Where was the family?  The family was along for a ride they knew nothing about.  A ride they didn’t expect or want.


In a recent Time article, the Divorce rate in the United States has dropped to a nearly 40 year low.  While this is true, there is data missing. Most researchers find that the typical marriage has a 50% chance of lasting. 

In police officers with PTSD, it’s a different story.  The police divorce rate is much higher than the national average.  Some reports have the divorce rate above 70%. No one knows the true number since many cases of PTSD go undiagnosed.

Experts say PTSD has harmed many families, “We see higher rates of divorce, family strain and social isolation,” reports Dr. Ash Bender, medical director of the psychological trauma program at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, “You lose your ability to feel pleasure and love”.

At no fault of the spouse, since many officers and families don’t know the symptoms of PTSD, they only observe the marriage as failing, or that the officer has changed and has become more angry, distant and combative; the spouse in many ways becomes frustrated with the relationship and finds a way out.  Sometimes justified on their part, the officer’s actions can include extreme alcoholism and physical abuse, characteristics that were never present in the relationship prior.  

What are the issues?

The abuse does not always manifest as physical abuse, but can also be psychological.  Often, officers with PTSD look for outlets to relieve the pain and issues with daily life and PTSD. Frequently that’s where infidelity, alcohol and sometimes drug abuse comes in.

Many times, the family does not know about the PTSD because it does not always come from one traumatic incident.  PTSD can develop over time into cumulative PTSD.  The day in and day out of seeing the pain of others, the death of adults and children can take a toll on the officers.  In addition to the stress of kids, bosses, bills and all other aspects of normal life, it builds up. 

Each person is different in how they deal with the stress, but sometimes the officer and spouse never realizes the PTSD at any level.  This often ends up in divorce and the breaking up of families.

Untreated, this adds even more stress to the officer with PTSD.  Officers often choose two routes, isolationism, keeping to themselves or, acting out.   The officer that acts out can be even more dangerous to themselves in some ways.  Many times, they will drink and get into fights or, drink until they pass out trying to forget the battle they are fighting in their minds.  On average 120 officers a year commit suicide. It’s also estimated that 70% of all officers that develop PTSD end up in divorce, in financial ruin, and are separated from their department within five years.

What can be done?

In conclusion, early understanding with the officers and families is crucial.  Learning the signs of PTSD even in the preliminary stages can do much for the officer, the families, the department, and society.  Officers that develop full-blown PTSD create divorce, broken homes, financial issues that cost everyone.  These officers can even strike out at work causing troubles with their department and possible financial obligations for taxpayers by way of legal claims. 

It’s very important that all officers, both new and the ones that have been on the job for years, understand the signs of PTSD not only in themselves but their partners, and how to seek help at all levels.  It’s also important that significant others understand the job and the signs of PTSD.  With early detection and support it is possible to avoid divorces and broken homes. 

Most police departments have psychological personnel that can help the officer, but many are reluctant to go that route.  The other routes are personal consolers, peers, and groups like CopStress.  CopStress offers anonymous peer to peer support and information on how to deal with PTSD.  


About the Author:

Rick Willard is a retired Detective Sergeant from the Baltimore City Police.  In his 20 years in law enforcement he worked in patrol, drug units, and HIDTA DEA Taskforce.  After being promoted to sergeant he oversaw a drug unit, was in charge of a non-fatal shooting squad, developed the city’s Gun Trace Taskforce, and ran a specialized unit building cases on murder suspects that evaded prosecution.   While he was developing cumulative PTSD from the violence officers see on a daily basis his full blow PTSD did not develop until Ash Wednesday of 2005 when he was involved in a shootout with a suspect.  His life spiraled out of control and it lead him to over 3 years of counseling and reading many books on PTSD and how to treat it.  He along with several others started CopStress to offer peer support to officers. He is currently the Chief Operations Officer overseeing peer support, training, and rapid response to critical incidents around the country.

Guelph research institute focused on understanding PTSD

 GUELPH — The complexity of post-traumatic stress disorder is only beginning to emerge, and the Homewood Research Institute in Guelph aims to get a better understanding of the disorder and how best to treat it.

“There are many dimensions of this we’re still figuring out,” said Roy Cameron, the institute’s executive director. “There’s room to improve treatment, there’s room to better tailor treatment to individual needs.”

Homewood Research Institute is a charitable organization that partners with Homewood Health Centre, which provides mental health and addiction services.

“The purpose of our institute is to do very practical research that will improve care,” Cameron said.

The partnership is key, providing researchers at the institute with a “living research laboratory.” Measuring outcomes is also an essential part of its research to determine whether treatments are effective.

“It’s a very unique set of things that we’re doing,” Cameron said.

The focus was first on addiction, and now it is also looking at post-traumatic stress disorder among military veterans and first responders, including police, firefighters and paramedics.

Post-traumatic stress disorder doesn’t respond well to traditional treatments.

“We have to be innovative,” Cameron said.

Partly that’s related to the brain changes that are a result of chronic or acute exposure to stress, and addressing those changes must be considered to help a person fully recover.

“It’s not just something that affects their behaviour. It’s something that affects them physically,” Cameron said.

Different types of the disorder are also emerging, such as a dissociative subtype that causes people to experience a sense of unreality.

“Things just don’t feel authentic,” Cameron said.

For some, there’s a moral aspect. They feel guilt about what they couldn’t do, or not being able to help everyone. Researchers want to understand this “moral injury,” how it appears clinically and how to treat it.

Due to the disorder’s complexity, one approach to treatment won’t be effective.

One promising new treatment is using neurofeedback as a tool for people to calm themselves, since difficulty controlling emotions is a hallmark of the disorder.

“Emotions just get out of hand,” Cameron said.

Military and first responders “deal with situations on behalf of us that nobody should be exposed to,” he said.

The toll of untreated mental illness is huge on family, work and life satisfaction

“It’s very disruptive,” Cameron said.

An event is being held May 1 at Guelph’s River Run Centre  to support the Homewood Research Institute. The one-woman play by actor and comedian Shelley Marshall called “Hold Mommy’s Cigarette” is autobiographical, drawing on her childhood in a dysfunctional home fraught with depression, trauma and suicide.


Original Story

Ex-Virginia Officer Says He Had PTSD When He Shot Man

A former police officer in Virginia being sued by a man he shot says he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder at the time.

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — A former police officer in Virginia being sued by a man he shot says he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder at the time.

The Virginian-Pilot reports that former Norfolk police officer Neal Robertson testified Friday that he shot Marius Mitchell three times in January 2013 because he feared for his life after Mitchell got into his squad car and dragged him into traffic.

Mitchell is suing Robertson for $10 million. Mitchell says he wasn’t dragging Robertson and that he had put his hands up and begged him not to shoot.

Robertson served as a Marine in the Middle East and was diagnosed with PTSD for symptoms he’d been experience since before the shooting.

Jurors began deliberating after the four-day trial ended Friday and are expected to continue on Monday.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Attitudes evolving toward PTSD, police chief says

‘There was a time when these types of things were not only unrecognized, but were hidden’


Attitudes toward post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and policing have changed considerably since he began his career, Greater Sudbury Police Chief Paul Pedersen said this week. 

“I’ve been in the profession a very long time,” Pedersen said. “There was a time when these types of things were not only unrecognized, but were hidden. There was a stigma associated with mental illness that suggested there was a weakness of character.”

The chief was speaking after a police services board meeting this week, in which the force outlined its policies for helping front-line workers with PTSD.

Police had until April 23 to do so under the Supporting Ontario’s First Responders Act, passed in the Ontario Legislature this month. It creates a presumption that PTSD diagnosed in first responders is work-related.

That presumption allows for faster access to WSIB benefits, resources, and timely treatment. The legislation is part of the province’s strategy to prevent or mitigate the risk of PTSD and provide first responders with faster access to treatment and the information. 

“I think we’ve evolved,” Pedersen said, when asked about current attitudes toward mental health issues. “Certainly, the attitude we have here in Greater Sudbury Police Service is one of support. If someone breaks their leg, everybody rallies around and says how can we fix it? If there’s a break we can’t see, we’re also rallying around now.

“That’s a huge shift for our profession.”

While Sudbury police had to file a plan, Pedersen said they were already leaders in the province when it comes to progressive attitudes toward PTSD. 

“Significant efforts are made to ensure the psychological health of members is maintained,” says a report on the plan. “Pre-hire, officers participate in a psychological screening and one-on-one visit with the service psychologist. Once hired, all recruits meet with the service psychologist prior to attending the Ontario Police College and on their return, and one year following return.”

Staff at a higher risk of suffering harmful psychological effects participate in more structured programs. They include areas such as forensics, cybercrime, major crime, tactical unit and traffic Services. 

After a traumatic incident, officers who responded are debriefed by staff with specialized training.

“The team provides immediate peer support and access to resources for members who have been involved in potentially traumatic events,” the report said. “The goal is to monitor members post event and off support services where identified.” 

And in 2016, police provided Road to Mental Readiness Training to all members. 

“The service’s goal has been to promote a cultural shift which supports greater acceptance of the importance of psychological health and to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues and seeking help,” the report said.

“Ongoing annual in-service training will also include education and awareness sessions on mental health and wellness with specific emphasis on observing signs and signals of distress to ensure early intervention.”

Original Story

Toronto police memorial will now include officers lost to suicide

Police officers who die by suicide in Toronto will soon have the same right to have their names included on the Memorial Wall as those who die by physical on-the-job injuries.

CityNews has obtained details of a settlement between the Ontario Human Rights commission and Toronto police, which outlines how and when police must end what the Commission has described as “discrimination based on disability.”

There has been debate for years as to whose name qualifies for the Toronto police memorial. Both the police brass and the union have blocked attempts to include the names of officers who died from job-related suicide.

Thursday’s settlement is a result of a claim filed by the family of Sgt. Eddie Adamson, who died after one of the darkest days in Toronto police history.

On March 14, 1980, Adamson’s partner Const. Michael Sweet was shot to death during a botched robbery and hostage-taking inside a Queen Street restaurant.

Sgt. Adamson never recovered. Twenty-five years later, in a motel room surrounded by articles about the tragedy, Sgt. Adamson shot himself. His widow Linda Adamson told CityNews in an interview a number of years ago, “Ed died that night. They didn’t kill one officer, they killed two. My husband just took 25 years to die.”

See the full story on Eddie Adamson below.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has now given Toronto police six months to “develop a process for the inclusion of names on the Memorial Wall.” That process, the Commission says, “shall be issued by the Chief of Police no later than Oct. 31, 2017.”

This doesn’t mean that officers who die by suicide will automatically have their names included on the wall, but it ensures “equal opportunity for inclusion as the names of members who die from physical injuries.”

In a statement, obtained by CityNews, the Chief of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Renu Mandhane, says the settlement will ensure that “all members who lose their lives in the line of duty are treated w

ith the same degree of recognition and respect.”

Original Story

Police adopt #PTSD plan – #thinblueline

Sudbury Canada Police Adopt PTSD Plan


Greater Sudbury, Canada Police Chief Paul Pedersen believes his service has come even farther than most in addressing post-traumatic stress and its impact on officers.

Pedersen ought to know, considering the change in both attitudes and actions related to PTSD during his policing career.

“Certainly, the profession is changing,” Pedersen said Wednesday, following a Greater Sudbury Police Services board meeting. “I have been in the profession a very long time and there was a time when these types of things were not only unrecognized, but were hidden, and there was a stigma associated with mental illness that suggested there was a weakness of character.

“I think we have evolved and certainly, the attitude we have here in Greater Sudbury Police Service is one of support. If somebody breaks their leg, everybody rallies around and says, ‘How can we fix it?’ If there’s a break that we can’t see, we’re also rallying around now and that’s a huge shift for our profession.”

Pedersen was pleased, then, to see the police services board vote to adopt a new post-traumatic stress disorder prevention plan at Wednesday’s meeting, in accordance with the Supporting Ontario’s First Responders Act, passed last year to amend the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act.

The new legislation creates a presumption that PTSD in first responders is work related, allowing for faster access to WSIB benefits, resources and treatment.

Employers of workers covered under the presumption were directed to provide the Ministry of Labour with information on their own PTSD prevention plans by April 23 of this year.

“I’m really proud to say that we were well ahead of this here in Greater Sudbury Police Service, not only focusing on post-traumatic stress disorder, but a variety of occupational stress injuries that can and do occur in the nature of our business,” Pedersen said.

The plan includes the police service’s employee assistance program, which provides confidential and professional support, guidance, counselling and referrals when required for personal challenges to members and their families, including post-traumatic stress disorder intervention.

The plan also includes psychological support. Areas identified as high risk for potential harmful psychological effects, such as forensics, cyber crime, major crime, tactical and traffic services, participate in more structured programs with the service psychologist.

The service has a critical incident response debriefing team, whose members are trained to provide immediate peer support ad access to resources for members who have been involved in potentially traumatic events.

Proactive measures include training, education and awareness. Annual in-service training will include education and awareness sessions on mental health and wellness with specific emphasis on observing signs and signals of distress to ensure early intervention.

“It’s all about continuing to promote mental wellness in the workplace, and more importantly changing that attitude, that stigma attached to mental illness,” said Sharon Baiden, Greater Sudbury Police Service CAO.

While PTSD diagnoses are confidential, Baiden said members have spoken out at training sessions and shared their journeys with PTSD.

“We do know the work that many of our officers do,” board member Frances Caldarelli said. “They see and experience some really terrible things and it can become a problem. For many years, it was a problem that nobody talked about and people had symptoms, but they really didn’t understand what was the matter. I’m really happy that the province has … encouraged services to set up plans that will see that they get the help they need.


Original Story

Police Officers Face Cumulative PTSD

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on American Military University’s blog, In Public Safety.  We are grateful that they have permitted us to share it with our audience.

Even with all we know about its effects and ways to treat it, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is common among police officers and continues to take its toll on their lives and those of their families.

Most of what people think of as PTSD relates to trauma suffered by soldiers and those in the military. However, police officers’ PTSD is different. Soldiers often get PTSD from a single or brief exposure to stress. However, for police officers PTSD tends to manifest over time, resulting from multiple stress-related experiences. This is better known as cumulative PTSD.

Understanding Cumulative PTSD

Cumulative PTSD can be even more dangerous than PTSD caused from a single traumatic event, largely because cumulative PTSD is more likely to go unnoticed and untreated. When a catastrophic event occurs, such as an officer-involved shooting, most departments have policies and professionals to help an officer address and deal with the aftermath of an event.

However, the build-up of events that arise throughout an officer’s career generally do not warrant such specialized attention. As a result, an officer with cumulative PTSD is less likely to receive treatment. Unlike a physical injury, a mental traumatic injury can happen almost daily. When the demon of PTSD surfaces it often goes ignored. If untreated, officers can become a risk to themselves and others.

Causes of PTSD

Numerous events can cause PTSD in police officers, such as hostage situations, dangerous drug busts, responding to fatal accidents, and working other cases that include serious injury or death. But there are many less traumatic situations that can still be extremely stressful for an officer. Other stressful situations include, but are not limited to: long hours; handling people’s attitudes; waiting for the next call and not knowing what the situation will be; and even politics within the department. Then, on top of it all, officers are frequently criticized, scrutinized, and investigated for decisions they make.

[Related: The Impact of Stress and Fatigue on Police and Steps to Control It]

Signs of PTSD

If recognized early and treated properly, officers and their families can overcome the debilitating effects of cumulative PTSD. The key to early intervention and treatment is recognizing the signs of PTSD and seeking help sooner rather than later.

Some of the physical signs officers should look for in themselves include:

  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Chest pain
  • Twitches
  • Thirst
  • Insomnia or nightmares
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Grinding of teeth
  • Profuse sweating
  • Pounding heart
  • Diarrhea or intestinal upsets
  • Headaches

[Related: How Police Can Reduce and Manage Stress]

Behavioral signs family members of officers and officers should look for in themselves and in others include:

  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Pacing and restlessness
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Anti-social acts
  • Suspicion and paranoia
  • Increased alcohol consumption and other substance abuse

Emotional signs include:

  • Anxiety or panic
  • Guilt
  • Fear
  • Denial
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Intense anger
  • Agitation
  • Apprehension

The situational training new recruits receive is simply not enough to prepare them for the reality of the experiences they will face throughout their careers. Most young officers do not understand the stressful events they are likely to experience during their years on the job. Many officers are also not adequately equipped with the emotional tools necessary to deal with the emotions they will feel when things happen.

However, awareness continues to grow about the stress and trauma that officers’ experience. Organizations like the Station House Retreat offer both inpatient and outpatient treatment trauma therapy and peer-support services for police officers as well as all first responders. They also offer addiction treatment for first responders, and support for their family members.


About the Author: Michelle L. Beshears earned her baccalaureate degrees in social psychology and criminal justice and graduate degrees in human resource development and criminology from Indiana State University. She most recently completed her Ph.D. in Business Administration with a specialization in Criminal Justice. Michelle served in the U.S. Army for 11 years. She obtained the rank of Staff Sergeant prior to attending Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia where she earned her commission. As a commissioned officer she led numerous criminal investigations and worked with several external agencies as well. As a civilian, she has worked with the local sheriff’s department, state drug task force and FBI. Michelle is currently an assistant professor of criminal justice at American Military University and is full-time faculty in the School of Security and Global Studies. You can contact her at Michelle.Beshears(at)mycampus.apus.edu.

Insurer tells injured police man: you can be a librarian. 250 job applications later he’s jobless

A former policeman suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) claims he was ruled fit to work by his health insurer and told to look for jobs as …

former policeman suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) claims he was ruled fit to work by his health insurer and told to look for jobs as a librarian. Two-hundred and fifty applications later and he still hasn’t found work.

“After being medically discharged I wasn’t prepared for what came next but what came next was worse than the initial injury,” Watts told the Sydney Morning Herald.

The former cop had his claim for total and permanent disablement with NSW Police insurer Metlife rejected, and was instead recommended to seek work in a clerical role, as a librarian, a private investigator or a security consultant.

“I applied for nearly 250 jobs and it is impossible to get a job”, the 47-year-old said. He has no qualifications outside his police work, making applications for the jobs he was recommended extremely difficult. “I could apply to be a brain surgeon, but who is going to take me on. They don’t market test or speak to employment agencies and say ‘would you take this person on?'”, he told the newspaper.

“They send you to cash for comment doctors who make reports on you who say you can be a librarian.”

Watts claimed he spent half an hour being examined by Metlife Insurance doctors while the opinions of the doctors he’d been seeing for 10 years were ignored.

Watts was discharged from the police force after he admitted to suffering from severe anxiety and traumatic flashbacks.

“I’d walk into work and I’d be perspiring and my heart would be pounding at massive rates. I started having high blood pressure”, he told the newspaper. “I knew I wasn’t well. I realised if I put my hand up and said I’m not well that would be the end of my career so I tried struggle on.”

Mr. Watts claimed it took nearly four years for Metlife to reject his claim, during which time he and his family were put under surveillance.

“They were filming my children, photographing me out with friends. It made my hyper-vigilance way worse. It made me way worse and way more worried. It compounded the whole issue,” Watts said.

A spokeswoman for the insurance company told the Sydney Morning Herald surveillance is no longer used and in previous cases it was only employed when there’s inconsistencies in the information received within the claim. The spokeswoman was unable to comment on Watts’ case, due to the company’s privacy policies.   


Original Story


Wife of Orlando cop with PTSD from Pulse shooting testifies before Florida Senate committee

The wife of an Orlando police officer suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder gave emotional testimony Monday, urging lawmakers to support a bill that would offer first responders with PTSD full workers’ compensation benefits.

Senate Bill 1088, sponsored by Victor Torres, D-Orlando, would allow first responders suffering from PTSD but not a physical injury to receive workers’ comp benefits. Under the current law, PTSD must be accompanied by a physical injury.

Jessica Realin, whose husband, Gerry Realin, was diagnosed with PTSD after he helped remove bodies from Pulse nightclub, testified in front of the  Florida Senate  Committee on Banking and Insurance.

“My husband was a practical joker. He was always the funny guy in the room,” she said, fighting back tears. “Now, it’s few and far between when I see that smile.”

She cited last month’s suicide of a Houston police officer as an example of a tragedy that can occur when someone suffers from PTSD.

“I’m telling you these stories because they are real,” she said. “When they come home to us after their shifts, they don’t get to take that hurt off of them. They re-live it in the sounds, the smells. They don’t integrate with the family anymore.”

The brother of a Central Florida firefighter with PTSD also testified.

Josh Vandergrift, a firefighter with the Cocoa Fire Department, responded to a hit-and-run accident in July to find that his brother, Nate, was the victim. Nate later died from his injuries.

“Josh left the scene without a physical injury, but he was deeply fractured on the inside,” said their brother Micah Vandergrift.

Micah said his brother’s PTSD has added a “layer of complexity” to the grief.

The bill passed the Committee on Banking and Insurance and will now go before at least two other committees before it can have a full Senate vote.

The Florida League of Cities opposes the proposal because of concerns about the cost.

Craig Conn, a lobbyist, said the group also is concerned the bill would change proof of mental illness from “clear and convincing” evidence to a “preponderance” of evidence.

“These are pretty substantial changes,” he said.

Although a financial analysis was done, it’s not clear how much more the measure would cost local and state agencies. That would depend on how many first responders — police officers, firefighters and other emergency workers — receive the benefits, the analysis showed.

It also would depend on the age and salary of the officer.

Gary Farmer Jr., D-Fort Lauderdale, voiced his support for the bill.

“I think we’ve heard from testimony that PTSD can be as debilitating, if not greatly more debilitating, than the loss of a limb or a physical injury,” Farmer said.

Gerry Realin did not testify. His wife said doctors advised him not to because that could cause him to regress.

The Orlando Police Department has been paying his full salary, though it’s not required to do so. He has been off work since shortly after the mass shooting.

Florida would become the sixth state to give first responders full workers’ comp benefits.

There is a comparable bill in the House. HB 1019 also is in committee.

Forty-nine people were killed and at least 68 were injured on June 12 when a gunman opened fire at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando.

Haze of PTSD Lingers When Veterans Put on The Police Badge

Amid the ongoing debates over excessive use of force by police officers in the United States, there’s one striking fact that hasn’t been getting much attention: One in five police officers is a military veteran. Although those officers are more prone to addiction and suicidal tendencies than their peers, most police departments are doing little to address these conditions before bringing them onto the force. Simone Weichselbaum  is a staff writer for the Marshall Project who investigated the so-called veteran-to-cop pipeline over an eleven month period, and shares  her findings  today on The Takeaway. 

One of the police officers and military veterans who Weichselbaum spoke with for her investigation was William Thomas, a longtime police sergeant in Newark, New Jersey. Along with Weichselbaum, Thomas joins The Takeaway to discuss the the realities of life on the force for military veterans across the country.