Breaking the Stigma Around Police and PTSD


It’s National Police Week in Canada, an awareness initiative created to help police connect with their communities and increase awareness about what they do.

Police officers hold one of the most courageous jobs out there, but what’s not talked about as much, is the stigma surrounding a topic that has a grip on so many cops—PTSD.

Police officers remain less likely than other first responders to seek help for PTSD and other “occupational stress injuries” such as depression and anxiety. Only 8 per cent of Canadian police are currently coming forward with PTSD, compared to 20 per cent of paramedics.

Because there is still a stigma regarding mental health and PTSD within police forces, many people still struggle to come forward for help. To get the conversation going, let’s honestly talk about what PTSD is. PTSD is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a condition that occurs following the experience (through first-hand or witnessing) of something traumatic.

Individuals who survive trauma and have stress reactions (or re-traumatization) can develop PTSD, and it can have a damaging effect both physically and mentally. The effects of PTSD can range from flashbacks, difficulty sleeping, detachment, etc. However, many people with PTSD develop additional disorders such as depression, addiction and various other physical and mental health issues. And the biggest key to healing from these symptoms and trauma itself, is to simply talk.

“Talking. Safe, open and vulnerable conversation is such an undervalued force for positive change.” — Kim Barthel from ‘Conversations with a Rattlesnake’

Police officers can support each other by providing safe spaces for one another to talk about the experiences they share. Alternatively, simply recognizing the signs of PTSD in another and reaching out, can be a life-saving move as well.

“I’m thinking about the concept of “shake it off”. At least move your body for a moment between experiences. PTSD dogs are out of this world! They are so attuned to the symptoms and provide instant comfort. When you use the information from a trauma emotion to work on yourself it becomes a transformative opportunity.” — Kim Barthel

“The greatest thing you can do to show courage is to ask for help. It does not mean you are weak. It means you care about yourself.” — Theo Fleury

If you’re looking for more guidance on trauma and PTSD, we post more resources every week on our blog, or feel free to pick up a copy of ‘Conversations with a Rattlesnake’, a book full of raw and open conversations on healing and trauma.

— Written by Amber Craig

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