Policing is one of the professions where post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is most prevalent. Like war veterans, police officers can be regularly exposed to harrowing events that lead to several mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and PTSD.
One Sydney-based former police officer, Simon Gillard, has discussed some of his most traumatic experiences in a new book to raise awareness of PTSD and encourage sufferers to seek help and get better.
The onset of PTSD
Mr Gillard said he was already experiencing several psychological effects after investigating suicides, murders, kidnappings and car accidents.
However, according to the North Shore Times, the 40-year-old’s PTSD symptoms became more pronounced when he was seconded to Strike Force Arika in 2009.
The unit was investigating instances of child sex abuse at Knox Grammar School, and Mr Gillard claimed it was the first time he began taking his work home with him.
“I couldn’t sleep, I had nightmares and had to check on my son. I’d wake up and have to check on Cooper, who was a similar age to the boys at the times when they were first abused,” he explained.
Eventually, his investigations into child sex abuse led to him developing a gambling addiction and trying to commit suicide on four occasions.
PTSD is classified as a total and permanent disability (TPD), which means people who develop the condition may be eligible for benefits if they are unable to return to the workplace.
Sane Australia estimates that approximately 25 per cent of those who are exposed to traumatic events will suffer PTSD. Symptoms include flashbacks of the experience, anxiety and jumpiness, and emotional numbness.
Dealing with PTSD
Mr Gillard decided to write the book about his life after he struggled to receive insurance for his PTSD after making a TPD claim. He argued that his mental health team told him to go outside and be active to improve his symptoms.
However, when he did leave the house, investigators for the insurance company photographed him so they could claim he was healthy and avoid paying out on his claim.
“I want people to learn from my lived experiences. This has given me a new identity, I can help others,” he stated.
“I want them to know that PTSD is treatable and measurable with grounding. You will still have triggers, but it gets easier to deal with them.”
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