Blue Flower

Key observations from the presentation delivered by Dr. Noreen Tehrani at the PTSD conference, 2017

There are three key types of traumatic exposure, all of which exist within modern policing. All have a specific cause/effect result on the individual and the service as a whole, and all have specific triggers which can be measured through screening and surveillance.

Primary trauma is the direct exposure to traumatic events involving death, injury, attacks, accidents etc. A misconception is that this only applies to major incidents – it doesn’t. Everyday incidents can result in primary trauma.

Secondary trauma relates to indirect exposure from victims, offenders, materials, testimony, images etc. It is the immersion in an incident that often results in secondary trauma as the individual begins to re-live it from the victim’s perspective.

Burnout is the normal consequence of working in a high pressure and demanding role with scarce resources, high public expectations and limited capacity. It is compounded by an inability to reflect, rationalise, and retain (rather than re-live) incidents, and over time reduces an individuals levels of resilience.

As part of the wider risk assessments required as employers, some police forces have started to introduce screening and surveillance processes for their high-risk roles (currently this list includes those dealing with online child abuse, public protection units, roads policing, firearms, negotiators, and family liaison officers), with a national programme being introduced for all negotiators funded by the Home Office.

After completing a questionnaire which is scored to identify clinical symptoms, a determination is made as to whether the results are OK, marginal, or not OK, and whether ongoing screening is required. For those marginal or not OK, a referral is made for a psychological assessment.

6 times higher than the general public (ave), and PTSD symptoms were 4.7 times higher (ave.). Just over 19% of those screened (ave.) were experiencing symptoms of burnout – the highest being within roads policing (35%). Those operating within firearms specialisms were consistently lower than the general public average, but does not take into account those who have surrendered their firearms duties.

Screening shows when there is an underlying psychological problem – or not, and has a dramatic effect on the efficiency within Occupational Health units.

18% of officers referred to OH had no significant clinical symptoms, and their issues could be handled better by wellbeing advisors or through management action.

What screening and surveillance has shown is that, over time, it is better at recognising the warning signs before they become a critical issue, thereby providing opportunities to intervene before a crisis.


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