Today is PTSD Awareness Day and its time for those of us in law enforcement to learn more about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and take a stance on how we will preserve and maintain our mental health and resilience in the face of a very toxic career.
Today’s the day and June is PTSD Awareness Month and we encourage you to learn more about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) not only to help yourself but your peers and the family members who need you by visiting the website for the National Center for PTSD which is run by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
What are you doing to raise awareness about PTSD in your agency?
They invite you to “Take the STEP and Raise Awareness about PTSD“
- Learn about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Challenge Beliefs
- Explore Options
- Reach Out
Isn’t it time that we in law enforcement take our own step toward understanding this issue and openly talking about it in our roll-calls and other agency meetings. You can download our CopsAlive Roll-Call training guide on PTSD byCLICKING HERE or keep reading to learn about the many resources being made available by the National Center for PTSD.
Rates of PTSD in law enforcement officers vary but… one rate of law enforcement duty-related PTSD is estimated at 7-19% according to the Florida State University’s Institute for Family Violence and the Law Enforcement Families Partnership who do training on PTSD for Florida Criminal Justice officers. They provide excellent resources for all agencies on PTSD, violence and Police Officer Domestic Violence on their website CLICK HERE to learn more.
If you want to promote the issue of PTSD awareness within your agency check out what “Special Materials” The National Center for PTSD has created for PTSD Awareness Day:
Frist they invite you to take “10 Steps to Raise PTSD Awareness” and reach out to others.
Those 10 Steps to Raise PTSD Awareness are:
1. Know more about PTSD
2. Challenge your beliefs about treatment
3. Explore the options for those with PTSD
4. Reach out. Make a difference
5. Know the facts
6. Expand your understanding
7. Share PTSD information
8. Meet people who have lived with PTSD
9. Take advantage of technology
10. Keep informed
How many of these could you do in your agency? How many cops to you know that have actually been diagnosed with PTSD? More importantly, how many cops do you know that probably have PTSD or another stress related disorder but are too afraid to lose the jobs to ask for help?
Here is what the National Center for PTSD suggests you can do this month to raise your own awareness and spread the word to your friends, family and agency:
Use this link to their page CLICK HERE
1. Know more about PTSD.
Understand common reactions to trauma and when those reactions might be PTSD.
2. Challenge your beliefs about treatment.
PTSD treatment can help. There are now effective PTSD treatments that can make a difference in the lives of people with PTSD.
3. Explore the options for those with PTSD.
Find out where to get help for PTSD and learn how to choose a therapist. Also see their Self-Help and Coping section section to learn about peer support and other coping strategies.
4. Reach out. Make a difference.
You can help a family member with PTSD, including assisting a cop or Veteran who needs care. They have support for friends and family too.
5. Know the facts.
More than half of US adults will experience at least one trauma in their lifetime. How common is PTSD?. For First Responders and Veterans and other people who have been through violence and abuse, the number is higher.
6. Expand your understanding.
Learn about assessment and how to find out if someone has PTSD. Complete a brief checklist or take an online screen to see if a professional evaluation is needed. June 20th was National PTSD Screening Day.
7. Share PTSD information.
Share handouts, brochures, or wallet cards about trauma and PTSD.
8. Talk to people who have lived with PTSD.
Visit AboutFace, an online gallery dedicated to Veterans talking about how PTSD treatment turned their lives around.
9. Take advantage of technology.
Download their PTSD Coach mobile app and treatment companion apps in the National Center for PTSD’s growing collection of mobile offerings.
10. Keep informed.
Get the latest information about PTSD. Sign up for their PTSD Monthly Update, or connect to them on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
The National Center for PTSD also encourages everyone to “Work With Others” and one group then mention is the “Adopt a Newtown Cop Program” specifically created to assist the officers of Newtown Connecticut to deal with their suffering following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. CLICK HERE to learn more about the “Adopt a Newtown Cop Program”
You can find Promotional Materials by Including:
Two versions of a PTSD Awareness Flyer
A newsletter entry for your in-house newsletter
Suggested Social Media posts
CLICK HERE to find the materials they have for you to Print and Distribute including:
Handouts, Booklets, Brochures, Pocket Cards etc.
You can Listen to, or DOWNLOAD a 27 minute audio podcast on Understanding PTSD by CLICKING HERE
CLICK HERE to learn more about and download their Psychological First Aid (PFA) Manual and App
CLICK HERE to Learn more about Psychological First Aid with PFA Online Videos on YouTube
CLICK HERE to find a PFA online course from the online Learning Center of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. YOU MUST REGISTER with them to take the course.
If you or someone you know in law enforcement is IN CRISIS or is having trouble with stress or other issues please reach out to SAFE CALL NOW the crisis hotline for first responders at 1-206-459-3020 or visit their website at http://safecallnow.org/
Finally what is the state of the diagnosis of PTSD?
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) is the organization charged with the development of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual that serves as a resource for clinicians, researchers, insurers, and patients has just released their long awaited Diagnostic and Statistical Manual version 5 (DSM-V) which is the manual used by mental health professionals as a standard used to make diagnoses.
A two page summary of the changes the American Psychiatric Association made in the DSM-V about PTSD is available from the APA website or by CLICKING HERE.
In summary it says that “Compared to DSM-IV, the diagnostic criteria for DSM-5 draw a clearer line when detailing what constitutes a traumatic event.
DSM-5 pays more attention to the behavioral symptoms that accompany PTSD and proposes four distinct diagnostic clusters instead of three. They are described as re-experiencing, avoidance, negative cognitions and mood, and arousal.
Re-experiencing covers spontaneous memories of the traumatic event, recurrent dreams related to it, flashbacks or other intense or prolonged psychological distress. Avoidance refers to distressing memories, thoughts, feelings or external reminders of the event.
Negative cognitions and mood represents myriad feelings, from a persistent and distorted sense of blame of self or others, to estrangement from others or markedly diminished interest in activities, to an inability to remember key aspects of the event.
Finally, arousal is marked by aggressive, reckless or self-destructive behavior, sleep disturbances, hyper-vigilance or related problems. The current manual emphasizes the “flight” aspect associated with PTSD; the criteria of DSM-5 also account for the “fight” reaction often seen”.
There is some debate about PTSD Debate within the U.S. Military and I would suggest Law Enforcement as well that is summarized in their flyer as such:
“Certain military leaders, both active and retired, believe the word “disorder” makes many soldiers who are experiencing PTSD symptoms reluctant to ask for help. They have urged a change to rename the disorder posttraumatic stress injury, a description that they say is more in line with the language of troops and would reduce stigma.
But others believe it is the military environment that needs to change, not the name of the disorder, so that mental health care is more accessible and soldiers are encouraged to seek it in a timely fashion.
Some attendees at the 2012 APA Annual Meeting, where this was discussed in a session, also questioned whether injury is too imprecise a word for a medical diagnosis”.
Their final ruling was that In the DSM-5, PTSD will continue to be identified as a disorder
CLICK HERE to download a two page summary of the changes the American Psychiatric Association made in the DSM-V about PTSD.
You can read about all the changes in the DSM-V by CLICKING HERE to download a longer Highlight sheet of all the changes including in the definition of PTSD.
There was an excellent article in the Feb 2013 issue of Police Magazine entitled: “Police and PTSD” that you can find by CLICKING HERE.
What are you going to do about the issues of maintaining our mental health in law enforcement?
At CopsAlive we offer training on how to Armor Your Self™ and Armor Your Agency™ against the toxic effects of stress and PTSD. These are long term systems for building Tactical Resiliency for yourself, your family and your agency.
PTSD and other stress related issues severely impact many, many law enforcement professionals and yet we are very slow to learn about taking care of our own. If you want to make a difference where you live and work then this is the time and here are all the resources you need to get started.
Remember: if you or someone you know in law enforcement is IN CRISIS or is having trouble with stress or other issues please reach out to SAFE CALL NOW the crisis hotline for first responders at 1-206-459-3020 or visit their website at http://safecallnow.org/
CopsAlive is written to prompt discussions within our profession about the issues of law enforcement career survival. We invite you to share your opinions, ask questions and suggest topics for us in the Comment Box that is at the bottom of this article.
At The Law Enforcement Survival Institute (LESI) we train law enforcement officers to cope with stress and manage all the toxic effects and hidden dangers of a career in law enforcement.
Our “Armor Your Self™: How to Survive a Career in Law Enforcement” on-site training program is an eight hour, hands-on, “How to” seminar that helps police officers and other law enforcement professionals armor themselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually to survive their careers in police work. To learn more CLICK HERE
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