A look at how PTSD can affect police officers - WDRB 41 Louisville News

A look at how PTSD can affect police officers

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The former Jeffersonville Police Officer involved in a standoff Friday morning says he was on the verge of suicide, suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

It's what we typically associate with soldiers dealing with the horrors of combat. But PTSD can be a reality for anyone exposed to traumatic situations. And for police officers, that's a regular part of the job.

"It's not normal for a normal person to see a child death or a murder victim or a dead body on a regular basis," LMPD Lt. Michael O'Neal said. "And that's something that we see that can have effects on us." 

Lt. O'Neal is the commander of LMPD's peer support team, a group of trained volunteers fellow officers can turn to. 

The team is a relatively new addition to the department, along with a full-time psychologist. Both are aimed at addressing the emotional impact of the job, which can be far more damaging than the physical impact.

"The physical danger is over after the situation is under control, you know, after you take that person into custody, you know make the scene safe.  But those emotional scars of what you've seen carry with you throughout your career," Lt. O'Neal said. "If you don't deal with the stress that that creates, and you don't deal with those emotions, it does have a cumulative effect."

Unfortunately, O'Neal also says like those in the military, police officers often avoid reaching out for help with their PTSD either because they don't want to admit there's a problem, or they don't want others to know for fear it could put their job in jeopardy. But he says that's changing.

"Older veteran officers when I came on tried to play the tough guy role, but we're seeing younger officers are more willing to get the help they need," O'Neal said. "They're actually braver for getting the help they need."

O'Neal says while PTSD is an issue, he doesn't think it's prevalent within LMPD.

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