Monday, November 10, 2008

De-Briefing of a Traumatic Event

Previously, I have briefly touched on the emotional impact of officer-involved shootings. Recently, I experienced an event that led me to re-engage on emotional impacts from shootings. While speaking to an officer, he reflected on an incident in his career that seemed to have a big burden on him. The incident involved the shooting of an officer, but he was not involved with it other than the investigation that took place soon after. The officer’s emotions were clearly reflected through his voice, body language, and facial expressions. Later, I realized that he never de-briefed this situation, and it has been with him throughout his career. The emotional impact from the shooting showed signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

PTSD is encountered when on is engaged in an incident that is, or is capable of causing great bodily injury or death. Police officers encounter stressful situations on a daily basis. Although it is not a daily occurrence to be in a gunfight, other situations may affect the officers’ emotional state. Dr. George Everly provides the following, at any time 15-32% of all emergency responders will deal with a reaction to PTSD, and this average is higher than that of Vietnam Veterans. De-briefings are recommended for officers to limit the impact of PTSD.

A concern with the culture of law enforcement is that one shows weakness if they express their feelings about any given situation. With traumatic events, however, the expression of one’s feelings is necessary to prevent PTSD. The Mental Health of America website explains that many people suffering from PTSD begin to live a passive lifestyle, and their relationships become weak. A de-briefing of an event will allow the involved parties to realize the symptoms that may occur, and are encouraged to take an active role in life. Some recommendations include exercise, connecting with family and friends, and not watching too much television. In all, if you or someone you know has experienced a traumatic event, like the officer I spoke with, the best thing to do is help them recognize the symptoms by talking to them about the event. Recognition will allow them to control the symptoms. Additionally, comfort them by informing them that they are not the only person whom may have experienced the PTSD from the incident, and they can take control.

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