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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Correctional Officers
By Kevin E. Bedore , Canadian Federal Correctional Officer
Published: 01/30/2012

Depression ptsd Evil has a special poison that disseminates onto all of us. It is called PTSD….

PTSD is something that you hear of a lot about these days. We are living in a violent, threatening and seemingly heartless world that seems to be getting worse, not better despite the democracy warriors have died fighting to achieve and maintain.
“…remember PTSD is the gift that keeps on giving. It impacts not only you in the years to come, but also your spouse and your kids. So now, ahead of time, while you are calm and rational think it through…”
from On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and Peace – by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman with Loren W. Christensen.

We can all be affected by it to some degree, some more than others, but the warrior by nature of his/her role gets an extra dose of it. It can strike in the aftermath of accidents, natural tragedy or in the wake of aggression as is in the case in law enforcement. The solder warrior, law enforcement warrior, common person and sadly our children all suffer from its evil.

Mental health professionals use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV) published by the American Psychiatric Association. This is the generic and universally accepted standard of diagnostic for this disorder. Below is a disturbing much more specific piece of information that identifies the alarming findings of a joint study conducted involving Canadian Correctional Officers.

Correctional Officers in Canada and PTSD
“The occurrence, and the effects, of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among Correctional staff are well documented. For example, in her research of exposure to critical incidents and their effects on Canadian Correctional Officers, Lois Rosine found that 17% of the officers interviewed experienced effects severe enough to be diagnosed to be suffering from PTSD. This figure is considerably higher than the 1% in the general population and approaches the 20% level found in Vietnam War veteran. Rosine’s findings also discount the common belief that individuals become hardened to critical incidents over time. This helps to validate the concept of the cumulative impact of such incidents on correctional officers.”
From JOINT COMMITTEE REPORT ON FEDERAL CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS – CORRECTIONAL SERVICE OF CANADA – APRIL 2000 JOINT STUDY.

It has long been established that soldiers are the elite of warriors. The law enforcement profession has honourably been extended this title of valour. Would you ever have imagined that the incidents of PTSD in correctional facilities are that closely related to a piece of military history that was one of the bloodiest, most horrific and notorious periods of our modern history? It opened my eyes that the correctional warrior must take these types of statistics seriously. I have seen many a fellow officer suffer the effects of PTSD to varying degrees along my way through this career. Sadly many don’t see it in themselves, they just don’t understand how horrible they feel and can’t (or won’t) seem to get better. Worse yet they deny themselves of seeking the help that they so desperately need to get better.

Editor's note: Corrections.com author, Kevin E. Bedore has 28 years experience in law enforcement, 23 as a Canadian Federal Correctional Officer. He began writing as a form of personal therapy to combat the negative effects that the correctional environment was having on him. He then realized that he had discovered something truly amazing that definitely needed to be shared with other officers facing the same challenges he had.

Other articles by Kevin Bedore



Comments:

  1. Squeeze on 06/12/2013:

    I am sympathetic to these Corrections officers that suffer from PTSD. As a 30 yr veteran of corrections my curiosity is :what is the difference between the officer that suffers from PTSD and those officers who have experienced the same circumstances (fights, assaults,in custody deaths etc...)that don't fit the criteria for PTSD.What makes those less suseptible to PTSD?

  2. SCC on 10/15/2012:

    I was curious if this afflicted Correction Officers as well as police and military. Until recently I had worked inside a Juvenile facility for over three years (now I work as a counselor court side). In the Juvenile facilities you are unarmed and always out numbered on your unit or pod. In the facility I worked, it could be as high as 12 to 1. If something jumped off on your unit, you were required to intervene and hit your man down. Often times you may have to wait 5 minutes while wrestling and trying to subdue an aggressive youth until help arrived. The whole time not knowing what the others were doing around you. In 2010 I was attacked from behind by a youth and suffered a sprained wrist when I hit the floor and several contusions to the forehead when I tried to get up and turn around to protect myself. Another staff member was able to grab the youth, and I then helped hold the youth down. It took 10 minutes before more staff arrived in order to get him and the rest of the group back to their cells. In the meantime, the other 11 youth were out of control and not listening to instructions to stand by their door. Another co-worker was attacked by several youth and had to have reconstructive surgery to his face. While attacks like this against staff are not usual, we generally deal with youth on youth restraints, it is an ever present reality that you think about all day while being locked up, and out numbered with unpredictable youth. Even when the unit is quiet, you are on edge from the time you are in contact with them to the time they go back in. The youth who attacked me was someone who I had great rapport with, which after this incident heightened my sense of awareness and unease. While on the outside I seemed to have full control of my groups, inside I was stressed to almost breaking. On a daily basis we are subjected to individuals who are on a variety of medications and who are being treated for mental disorders we are not equipped nor qualified to handle. We are in an environment where aggression is a part of the value system that influences the groups behavior. We are held to strict guidelines of policy and laws that the youth are not necessarily held to once they begin to act out. While they may be charged with another felony assault, if we act "inappropriately" to being assaulted or in a case of defending another youth, we can lose our livelihood through disciplinary action or even civil lawsuit from a parent. Another reality I had/have to deal with was with the kids I had gotten to know. Kids I tried to make a difference with (which were all). Waking up and hearing on the news that they had been killed or involved in committing a murder or other high profile horrendous crime. This also works on your psyche. It is something that the average person in the workforce does not have to deal with or encounter on a daily basis. I will admit, the majority of my days in the facility were uneventful, all of what I had mentioned eat at you and put you on edge for 8 to 16 hours a day. And when it does jump off, it adds to that stress level. Since I left the facility and began working courtside, I have been sleeping better, my alcohol consumption has subsided, and I am far more happier to drive to work than before. But with all this, that experience still haunts me and you cannot verbalize it to others who work a regular 9-5 job, so to speak. I would like to see support groups for COs who can meet and talk about their days in order to vent those frustrations and perhaps alleviate some of the stress associated with this line of work.

  3. commander on 03/18/2012:

    I suffer from PTSD and Panic disorder. Though I feel I have it in control, it took my retiring from Corrections this past February, to realize how stressed out I was. I feel a lot better both physically and mentally. 26 plus years working at a Maximum Security Prison, takes a toll on a person. It is a demanding job that most employees get no satisfaction from. Although we realize we are protecting the public and the Inmates from each other, the smallest mistake is perceived as a major mistake. There is no room for error but, as a human, we will error. We just try to minimalize our mistakes. There is far more criticism than gratitude shown to Corrections Professionals. Whether it be from the public or from our Employers. As a Supervisor, I had to discipline employees but, I never failed to pat them on the back when the opportunity arose. We all do feel underappreciated. The moral is very touchy and can change in the blink of an eye. People need to remember that the occupants of a Prison are Inmates not clients. They are being punished for committing a serious crime not for skipping Sunday School.

  4. mtarte on 01/31/2012:

    PTSD is an insidious and debilitating condition that, if not diagnosed properly, can lead to long term problems. That said, we must, as civilian law enforcers be careful with the "warrior" persona to the public. Enough people believe that the police, and to a lesser extent, correctional officers, are becoming "militarized." It is not the case of course, but in today's media-soaked society, perception is reality. We mus have warrior-like tendencies at times of course, but we are enforcers of the law, be it on the street or behind prison walls.


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