What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? The best working definition can be found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) as “Diagnostic Criteria for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder”. Oversimplified it is an emotional and physical injury as the result of an external cause that is diagnosable. Take note that it is due to an external cause or source. In fact, it is related more to cumulative stress from traumatic events, than from a single incident.
Eric Wahgren, in Business Week, wrote, “In some ways, a cops work may be even more traumatic than that of a soldier sent into a war zone, experts say, ‘The police officer’s job, over many years exposes and re-exposes them to traumatic events that would make anybody recoil in horror.’ A combat soldier’s deployment of 12- 18 months is without a doubt intense but the police officer gets no breaks or relief / decompression time during their career of 15 or more years.
The cause and the cure is the person cannot separate emotions from memory.
Dead people can kill you! That’s right! Sure a person with a gun, knife, bomb, etc. can kill you – – but only once; whereas, the on-going exposure to death / traumatic events over the years can kill you emotionally and physically but much more slowly.
Michael Williams says it so well in sharing “Survive the streets: A page for cops”:
“Those who fight monsters inevitably change. Because of all they see and do, they lose their innocence and a piece of their humanity with it. If they want to survive they begin to adopt some of the same characteristics as the monsters they fight. It is necessary. They become capable of rage and extreme violence.
There is a fundamental difference, however . . . that monster is only allowed out to protect others, to accomplish the mission, to get the job done. …In fact, these monster tendencies cause damage. …GUILT, ISOLATION, DEPRESSION, PTSD. There is a cost for visiting violence on others when you are not a monster. …
Before you judge one of us, remember this ….
We witness things that humans aren’t meant to see and we see them repeatedly. We perform the duties you feel are beneath you. We solve your problems. …We run towards the things that you run away from. We go out to fight what you fear. We stand between you and the monsters. …You want to pretend they don’t exist, but we know better.
Your life is more peaceful because of us. …”
Before I continue, I need to stress that PTSD is not just affecting military persons but ALL first responders, not just cops, but firefighter, Dispatchers, and EMT personnel.
The job calls for us to respond to danger, the problem is HOW YOU respond to it. I believe we fail our responders two ways:
1. We don’t tell them they likely will re-experience a traumatic event(s) and
2. What to do if it does happen.
First, one must come to accept the reality of the experience. Don’t pretend it never happened. Don’t hold it inside or refuse to talk about it. Don’t ignore that a problem exists. You can’t fix a problem until you recognize that there is a problem. For police officers especially, this is the hardest thing to do. You must accept and acknowledge you have a problem. Then seek out someone to talk with as the first step to recovery.
Next, take steps to grasp that you must separate your emotions from the memory. Trying to run from the memory that brings out the emotion, only drives you deeper into the PTSD unhealthy darkness instead of healing. Recognize that this type of response is common for those constantly involved in traumatic situations. No denial. No shame.
Simply, understand you CAN recover from PTSD. We are getting better, and more successful in treatment and healing the suffering.
As a 30 year police veteran currently working with police recruits and serving as a police Chaplain, I am encouraged and excited to share with you this facility dedicated to serving and supporting ONLY first responders needing recovery. I had the privilege of meeting some of those involved and given a first-hand look at what they do.
It’s simple concept. They provide those in need with the best care and treatment available to recover and get back their lives. This is accomplished by an individualized treatment plan and aftercare program.
These a passionate professionals that have developed a program like no other for first responders only with a secluded 1.6 acre waterfront resort style living involving clinicals, peer support groups, trauma resolution and so much more.
Because of our chosen careers we have exceptional needs because we have our own culture, code, values, and even language. This program caters to first responders specific needs by a community of their own peers.
Their goal is to provide quality services to assist in the healing process of PTSD experiences of first responders.
If you, or someone you know, needs to get their life back, this can be your solution. As we enter a New Year, what better way to start then by seeking help with PTSD and/or associated addictive behavior
Detective Gene Hall retired in 1997 after 30 years of service. Gene has been a police instructor since 1973. He is a Coordinator with the Criminal Justice Institute (Police Academy), Palm Beach State College. Five years ago he was led to start a ministry for LEO’s called “thebibleandtheshield.com”. He speaks to Christian groups about the need for outreach to police officers and their families. This led to guest speaking engagements with Florida Men of Integrity/Iron Sharpens Iron conferences and representing the Fellowship of Christian Peace Officers in South Florida. He is the Florida State Director for the American Police Chaplains Association and affiliated with the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board. In 2013 he became the first volunteer Chaplain with the Palm Springs (FL) Police Department.
You can contact Chaplain Gene at: [email protected] or his ministry: thebibleandtheshield.com.