Statistics suggest that as many as 19 percent of police officers on active duty have diagnosable posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Thousands of these individuals become so overwhelmed by symptoms such as fear, anxiety, depression, and anger that they contemplate suicide. In fact, according to the chair of police suicide prevention group Badge of Life, suicide takes more police lives than automobile accidents and gunshots combined.
Many police officers develop PTSD as a result of exposure to a single traumatic event, such as a mass shooting or a hostage situation, but many more develop the condition over time. Daily exposure to injury, death, and violence can begin to take a toll on the officer, until the distress is so intense that it affects his or her work and family life.
Unfortunately, many police officers struggle with the conditioned response to hide their feelings and press on with their work. The culture of toughness in the force leads to embarrassment at the thought of seeking help. Fortunately, some police departments and support organizations are beginning to develop programs targeted at reducing the stigma and encouraging officers to get the help that may save their lives.