Cultural excellence vital in helping police facing PTSD
- Written by Amy Dinsmore
- December 23 2015
Post traumatic stress disorder is a major problem across the law enforcement sector. The issue is compounded by an operational culture in which officers want to appear tough and, therefore, may be hesitant to acknowledge their struggles. A 2014 InPublicSafety article pointed to a variety of studies and academic research to explain that the law enforcement industry has developed a culture of silence, something that needs to be eradicated to protect against police suicide and provide adequate treatment to officers facing PTSD.
Breaking down the culture of silence hinges on training your officers to adjust how they interact and establishing formal policies that create opportunities for meaningful care discussions after events that could lead to PTSD. Flexibility is essential here, and document management software can go a long way to simplifying this process. Developing the innovative training and policy management practices needed to eliminate the culture of silence could prove essential moving forward, as the problem of PTSD does not seem to be going away.
Canada a prime example of the growing PTSD problem
Recent research pertaining to a PTSD-related incident in Canada has shown an increase in officers facing PTSD. The research found that, as of the end of June 2015, approximately 2,924 veteran Mounties are receiving PTSD-related benefits from Veteran Affairs Canada. Comparably, in March 2013, that figure was 35 percent lower. This steady increase in PTSD benefits collection is troubling, and Rob Creaser, a retired RCMP officer diagnosed with PTSD, told CBC Canada that stress in the workplace is a major cause of the problems in Canada.
“It’s becoming more and more prevalent that what I would classify as non operational issues such as harassment in the workplace, the treatment of RCMP members, the chronic understaffing right across Canada is putting more and more pressure on those that are left doing the job,” Creaser told the news source.
Overcoming mounting stress among police
If police struggle with the idea of breaking their silence when facing PTSD issues, and the operational climate adds to the stress and creates an environment in which officers may be loathe to take time off to properly process trauma, what can agencies to do to combat the problem?
This is where culture is so important. If PTSD is looked at as a sign of weakness or something that truly great officers should be able to work through without trouble, people won’t speak up when they are struggling. If individuals feel like they will be letting down other officers by taking time off to seek psychiatric care or to get a mental break to deal with trauma, they will try to hide any strains they are experiencing.
Changing your culture through policies that emphasize PTSD as a serious issue and training materials that help officers identify signs of PTSD either in themselves or in others can help agencies respond to the needs of individuals dealing with PTSD. The openness shown through effective training and policies that alleviate the sense of guilt that can come from seeking help can make it easier for officers to admit that they need treatment, which is often the key first step in dealing with PTSD.