POLICE Magazine

JUN 2019

Magazine for police and law enforcement

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12 P O L I C E J U N E 2 019 ficers took their own lives. PTSD is very real and very much an active issue in law enforcement whether we choose to admit it or not. PTSD RISK According to the Mayo Clinic, some fac- tors may make you more likely to devel- op PTSD after experiencing a traumatic event. Use this list to help take a risk inventory: • Experiencing intense or long-lasting trauma • Having experienced other trauma earlier in life, such as childhood abuse • Having a job that increases your risk of being exposed to traumatic events, such as military personnel and first respond- ers • Having other mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression • Having problems with substance mis- use, such as excess drinking or drug use • Lacking a good support system of family and friends • Having blood relatives with mental health problems, including anxiety or depression LEARN TO RECOGNIZE THE SYMPTOMS e Mayo Clinic advises that PTSD may start within one month of a traumatic event, but sometimes symptoms may not appear until years after the event. ese symptoms cause significant problems in social, work, and relation- ship settings. ey can also interfere with your ability to go about your nor- mal daily tasks. PTSD symptoms generally fall into four types: intrusive memories, avoid- ance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions. See if any of these applies to you: Intrusive memories. Symptoms of intrusive memories may include: • Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event • Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks) • Upsetting dreams or nightmares • Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the traumatic event Avoidance. Symptoms of avoidance may include: • Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event • Avoiding places, activities, or people that remind you of the traumatic event Negative changes in thinking and mood. Symptoms of negative changes in thinking and mood may include: • Negative thoughts about yourself, oth- er people, or the world • Hopelessness about the future • Memory problems, including not re- membering important aspects of the traumatic event • Difficulty maintaining close relation- ships • Feeling detached from family and friends • Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed • Difficulty experiencing any positive emotions • Feeling emotionally numb Changes in physical and emotion- al reactions. Symptoms of changes in physical and emotional reactions (also called arousal symptoms) may include: • Being easily startled or frightened • Always being on guard for danger • Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too fast • Trouble sleeping • Trouble concentrating • Irritability, angry outbursts, or aggres- sive behavior • Overwhelming guilt or shame REMEMBER RETIREES e bulk of information found in mag- azines or on the internet focus on offi- cers still working. But what if you are approaching retirement or are already retired like I am? Retirement some- times involves one of life's biggest jokes. Meaning, you've had a successful ca- reer and retire; and just when you think it's time to start enjoying a stress- and drama-free life, PTSD rears its ugly head. e reason PTSD can have a de- layed reaction is during your career you learned to either suppress or minimize what was really going on with you. Since stress is a normal part of the job, you just suck it up, focus on your work, and learn to push things aside. Now that you no longer need to minimize or suppress what's going on, the symptoms may start manifesting themselves. Retire- ment is no cure for PTSD, and for some it may well be the start of it. FINAL THOUGHTS If you work in law enforcement long enough, you will most likely experience psychological trauma brought on by a highly stressful event. You need to come to terms with this and be prepared to recognize PTSD in yourself. Seeking help early is better than using negative coping mechanisms like drug or alco- hol abuse. Hopefully no one gets to the point of considering suicide. But for those who reach that point, there are resources available, including the National Sui- cide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273- 8255) and Safe Call Now (1-206-459- 3020), which offers services specifically for first responders. I pray that 2019 is better for law enforcement than the last three years and that in some small way this article helps. Amaury Murgado is a retired lieutenant from the Osceola County (FL) Sheriff's Office with over 30 years of experience. He also retired from the Army Reserve as a master sergeant. HOW TO... WITH WHAT OFFICERS SEE AND GO THROUGH, I DON'T KNOW OF ANY WAY TO RELIABLY FEND OFF PTSD. PHOTO: GET T Y IMAGES

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