Work-related factors that contribute to police officer PTSD

People working for law enforcement agencies in Colorado have demanding duties placed on them. The nature of the work can leave a police officer with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This psychological response to difficult or agonizing situations impacts a person’s ability to function at work and in private life. Multiple issues raise the risk of PTSD for officers. Some come internally from how an agency is managed and whether or not it has appropriate programs to help officers cope with the stress that inevitably accumulates in their occupation.

Internal workplace sources of ongoing stress

Conditions vary among law enforcement agencies. Some have more challenging jurisdictions than others, but any law enforcement job has the potential to inflict PTSD that leaves you unable to work.

Stressors that arise on the agency level include:

  • Bad management
  • Excessive overtime
  • Irregular work shifts

Results of runaway stress

Individual responses to excessive stress reveal themselves in any number of ways. The prolonged stress can produce serious health problems like:

  • Weight gain
  • Heart disease
  • Digestive disease

Behavioral issues are common due to workplace stress and trauma, including:

  • Alcoholism or other substance abuse
  • Inability to control anger
  • PTSD
  • Suicide

How police departments can help officer manage stress

A police department that recognizes the stressful nature of the work can provide resources that help officers cope. This begins with accepting that police work makes officers vulnerable to mental health challenges like PTSD. The workplace culture should remove stigma about asking for help and make counseling part of the job just like regular training in other areas.

Negative mental health among officers may be reduced by running annual training sessions about dealing with the stress and trauma of the job. Routine training about recognizing symptoms and treating them appropriately makes the problem about every person on staff instead of a single person who may fear being seen as weak. After particularly serious events, officers should receive automatic counseling so that they can discuss what happened and any issues that are troubling them.

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