Minnesota Association For Injured Peace Officers

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In the News:

Take the Step: Raise PTSD Awareness

A Cop's Story

Excerpts from an article by Officer Richard Schmitt:

So what is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
No fancy clinical definitions here. It's actually quite simple. To understand PTSD as an injury, one has to understand that we all have a "self".

Think of your inner self as a part of you. Just like an arm or leg. The part of you that feels emotional pain. The part of you that hurts when you've lost a loved one or something special. The part of you that feels proud with great accomplishment or is moved by a specific song or music.

Though it's a part of every human being, it can't be seen, x-rayed or photographed but it is very real. Your "self" is what generates thoughts, opinions and feelings based on what your "self" experiences and learns.

That's the part of you that takes a hit. That's where an injury occurs that can manifest into PTSD. PTSD is an emotional injury that hits you right in the area of "who" and "what" you are.


PTSD Is Also An Injury

Some call it anxiety, some call it worry, and some simply canít put a word to the feelings and reactions we see on a daily basis: the run-of-the-mill domestic abuse/assault case that results in a battered victim; the children who become victims of sexual predators; the death of someone through violent and sudden means; and those once-in-a-career incidents that leave an incredible mark on our psyche. We typically donít deal with or acknowledge the horrific events we see and feel.

Cumulative and acute stress reactions are part of our work experience. When we fail to appropriately acknowledge and process these events, it cuts our lives short and negatively affects our relationships with family, friends, co-workers, and the public; death, illness, divorce, and suicide are many times the result.

We encourage you to contact us if it appears that you or someone you know may have symptoms of PTSD: call 651-295-6232 or email president@officerneedshelp.com.

Our association has a no cost mentoring program in which officers who have coped with PTSD in the past can provide you with information that may help you with your injury. We can also provide you with names of professionals who have experience treating cops with PTSD.

Facts About PTSD

If you have gone through a traumatic experience, it is normal to feel lots of emotions, such as distress, fear, helplessness, guilt, shame or anger. You may start to feel better after days or weeks, but sometimes, these feelings donít go away. If the symptoms last for more than a month, you may have post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of a traumatic event. A traumatic event is a life-threatening event such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, or physical or sexual assault in adult or childhood.

What are the symptoms of PTSD?
For many people, symptoms begin almost right away after the trauma happens. For others, the symptoms may not begin or may not become a problem until years later. Symptoms of PTSD may include:

  • Repeatedly thinking about the trauma. You may find that thoughts about the trauma come to mind even when you donít want them to. You might also have nightmares or flashbacks about the trauma or may become upset when something reminds you of the event.
  • Being constantly alert or on guard. You may be easily startled or angered, irritable or anxious and preoccupied with staying safe. You may also find it hard to concentrate or sleep or have physical problems, like constipation, diarrhea, rapid breathing, muscle tension or rapid heart rate.
  • Avoiding reminders of the trauma. You may not want to talk about the event or be around people or places that remind you of the event. You also may feel emotionally numb, detached from friends and family, and lose interest in activities.

These are other symptoms of PTSD:

  • Panic attacks: a feeling of intense fear, with shortness of breath, dizziness, sweating, nausea and racing heart.
  • Physical symptoms: chronic pain, headaches, stomach pain, diarrhea, tightness or burning in the chest, muscle cramps or low back pain.
  • Feelings of mistrust: losing trust in others and thinking the world is a dangerous place.
  • Problems in daily living: having problems functioning in your job, at school, or in social situations.
  • Substance abuse: using drugs or alcohol to cope with the emotional pain.
  • Relationship problems: having problems with intimacy, or feeling detached from your family and friends.
  • Depression: persistent sad, anxious or empty mood; loss of interest in once-enjoyed activities; feelings of guilt and shame; or hopelessness about the future. Other symptoms of depression may also develop.
  • Suicidal thoughts: thoughts about taking oneís own life. If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Additional information is available at: www.nmha.org/go/ptsd