Although police officers are at a high risk of experiencing traumatic events in their work, they are no more likely than the general population to suffer from post-traumatic stress ?disorder (PTSD), found a study by the Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST) in Montreal.
This study also confirms that symptoms associated with the development of PTSD in police officers can be prevented with specific and adapted intervention. These symptoms include dissociative reactions, emotional and physical reactions, a state of acute stress, depressive symptoms and emotional coping responses to stress.
“Providing police officers with interventional support shortly after and in the weeks following a traumatic event improves the chances of preventing PTSD,” said André Marchand, lead author of the study. “The strategies for adapting to trauma, such as developing a stress-resistant personality and obtaining social support, can be improved through prevention components of police officer training programs.”
The descriptive analysis results show that police officers have different adaptation methods and strategies at their disposal in order to deal with a critical work-related event. The police officers stated that talking to their colleagues, obtaining peer support and taking part in leisure activities are particularly helpful after a traumatic event.
“The police officers involved in this study even advise their colleagues who experience this kind of event to consult a psychologist and are themselves open to the idea of receiving psychological support if need be,” said Mélissa Martin, co-author of the report.
Eighty-three policemen from the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) and other police forces who had experienced a traumatic event volunteered for this study. Among the participants, 64 per cent had to draw their guns, 11 per cent fired their guns and 28 per cent used another weapon.
A feeling of powerlessness in relation to the traumatic event was reported by 80 per cent of the police officers, and 59 per cent felt a reaction of intense fear. More than one-half of the police officers said they experienced anger, 17 per cent felt guilt and two per cent felt shame when the traumatic event occurred.