Dear Friend of LEAP,
“Every time you see something traumatizing, it does harm to you. It’s like adding a brick to your backpack and carrying it around. Eventually, those bricks are going to weigh you down to where you can’t move.”
Police Commissioner Branville Bard uses this analogy to explain the impact of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) on the mental health of officers, adding, “But when you embrace the trauma-informed approach, and you talk to a peer counselor, it’s like unpacking those bricks.” He asks, “How can we be expected to go out and help, if we ourselves are in need of help?”
June 27th is National PTSD Awareness Day, a day to remind us of the need for open discussion about PTSD, and the importance of eliminating the stigma around seeking help for the condition.
Chief Norm Stamper (Ret.) shared a story from his career to encourage and support officers who may need help. “Early in my career I shot and killed a man who’d been threatening to murder his three-year-old son. For years later, I told myself I was unaffected by the traumatic event. A psychologist friend, who would later become my wife, saw signs of PTSD and issued an ultimatum: Get help or the wedding’s off. I got help and, for the first time in the 10 years since the shooting, was able to see how deeply, and in what ways, it had affected me. I was able to make critical changes in my life, my relationships. I spent six months with a therapist, one of the smartest things I’ve ever done.”
Help for PTSD is available in many forms, and Chief John I. Dixon III (Fmr.), wants fellow officers to know, “The first step to recovery or coping is the desire to seek healing. The next step is to stick to it!”
Healing or coping can be found through various therapies, including peer support and mentorship programs, relaxation techniques like mindfulness training, meditation or yoga, or by participating in group or individual therapy and counseling. Medication generally used to treat depression and anxiety is being prescribed for PTSD, and researchers are currently working toward new methods of therapy involving psychedelic drugs, with some promising results.
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