A police officer’s harrowing battle with PTSD

As specified on the coverLife Sentence  is the memoir of A Police Officer’s Battle with PTSD. From the very beginning, it is a fascinating, emotive and compelling read.

The prologue sets the scene of where Simon Gillard is now, in the nightmare of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. “I’m awake again, shaking, sweating. My heart is racing and I stare into the dark. I can’t close my eyes.”

From here we are taken back by Simon to when he was a young boy and fell in love with his ideal future, that of becoming a policeman. He never wavered in this ambition which was to carry him so successfully, but often agonizingly, for so many years.

Simon paints graphic pictures but also uses uncomplicated language to tell his story. He is a highly motivated, sincere and conscientious member of the police force. As he never becomes stagnant or complacent we are privileged to see the inside workings of so many different areas and locations of city policing as he continues to widen his experience and knowledge.

We also see the interpersonal relationships that are paramount to the successful functioning of any large organization especially the police force and their detectives. Simon continues to be a team pla the er even in the face of adversity. Leadership and the hierarchy have so much significance in the gradual demise of Simon.

Less than half way through this amazing account I actually became upset as his narrative triggered my own memories of unfair, unjust, disloyal experience in the workplace as a respected member of the high school leadership team where I was eventually put out to pasture. It was at this point of recognition of what was happening to Simon that I pre-empted (in my own mind) that the lack of empathy, loyalty, and support would be the start of Simon’s unease and subliminal onset of his PTSD, rather than his ability to work proficiently in his career.

The importance of good counseling and caring is vividly highlighted. The latter has even more imperative when dealing with crime with its many portfolios, some of which include drug use, rape, murder, suicide, street bashings and brawls, theft, gang warfare, pedophile rings and crime within your own ranks. Then there is the competitiveness and enmity between the divisions of police work not to mention individual idiosyncrasy and the interpersonal likes and dislikes that can, as illustrated by Simon Gillard, border on corrupt behavior.

What is even more shocking to me is the harassment, twisting of the truth, stalking, hounding and prowling, almost to the point of persecution of Simon by the insurance companies, one in particular. I wanted to congratulate Simon on naming and recounting their part in his PTSD. How could they but exacerbate this medical condition.

My admiration for Simon knows no bounds. At no time does Simon blame the workplace or those in it for his condition. He gives a factual account of coping and not coping with this disorder. It is also a story of love and family bonding. Simon’s great love and esteem for his wife and children save him from the brink on several occasions. Sarah, his wife is as much to be admired as Simon.

His heartrending story is told succinctly and openly. It is a must read for anyone who works in the public sector; police, politicians, the law, teachers, lecturers, doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, counsellors, carers, defence forces, wives and parents and especially those who work with or in Insurance companies or, for that matter those trusting workers who pay week after week, year after year to this greedy and unprofessional sector.

Simon’s “tips”, statistics and support information at the end just adds to the caring and sincerity of Simon as a wonderful advocate of humanity.

Life Sentence by Simon Gillard (with Libby Harkness) is available now from Dymocks. 

Original Story can be found HERE

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.

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.