Sunday, December 16, 2012

PTSD in Corrections

By Bryan Avila, Backgate Contributing Author

For those of us that are in this line of work know that we have a perverted sense of humor. With the things that we have to deal with on a daily basis, how else can we cope if not with some type of humor. But do we really know how this job really affects us? Have we ever really thought about the possibility that PTSD may be an issue?

I am going to ask you to put in order from lowest to highest who is more likely to suffer from PTSD and compare your results after. No cheating and let’s see how you do.

1. Corrections
2. NYPD Officers (post 9-11)
3. Fire Fighters (post 9-11)
4. Civilian Population
5. Emergency Management Personnel
6. EMT
7. War Time Military Personnel 

Now if I was a betting man, I’d bet that you put down civilian population with the lowest and wartime military as the highest. You would be correct with the lowest. The civilian population currently has a PTSD rate of 3.5%. Wartime military has a PSTD of 12-20% (that’s up to 1 out of every 5 members of our military!) NYPD officers have a rate of 7.2%, firefighters are 14.3%, EMTs are 14.1%, Emergency Management personnel are 13.2%.

But for corrections in the US is 27%... Let that sink in for a minute. 27%. Want to see it from a different perspective? Let’s try this one then. One (1) out of every 3.7 people working in corrections is suffering from PTSD.

The Desert Waters Correctional Outreach conducted a first of its kind (in the US) research study regarding PTSD in US Correctional Professionals (uniformed and non-uniformed).

Their results showed that the most common symptoms were anger (82%), numbness (60.4%), fear (57.9%), helplessness (51%) and indifference (50%).  How about how it affects other parts of our lives? Depression (53.8%), sleep difficulty (40.9%), digestive problems (35.3%) and obesity (36%). And folks, these numbers are representative of if you experienced the symptoms within the last 30 days.

Would it surprise you to find out that the average number of missed days from work within a year for these staff members was 15.21 days? How about 7.24 doctor’s visits within a year? Or 2.44 medical conditions that they have?

Those numbers are just staggering. Did we ever think that it would be this high? Yes, we knew that we go through some of these but most of us blow it off as just part of the job.

It is not a matter of being too proud to ask for help. Stress, relationship problems, anxiety and satisfaction with life are all affected as well as a result of what we go through.

The Employees Assistance Program is there for a reason. Many of us have heard about it but really don’t know what it is all about. If you are not sure, let me give you the cliff notes version of the cliff notes version: 24/7/365 days someone will answer the phone. Available to you and your immediate family. Have teens? Teen helpline just for them. Confidentiality concerns? The only people that will find out you called are the ones that YOU tell. The agency will never find out unless you say something. Marital problems, depression, whatever…they can help. And the best part: FREE

If you work for the State of Texas, their number is 866-862-5972. If you work in another state, find their number, program it into your phone and make sure you know it is there. You may have a friend that needs it later on.

If you want to read the research report, here you go:

Editor's note: and  Backgate Website Contributing author, Bryan Avila started working as a Police Officer in 1994 while attending Norwich University in Northfield, VT. In 1999 he began working for the Vermont Dept of Corrections while still working as a Part-Time Police Officer. In 2007 he left public service until 2009 when he began working for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.  - Note; the views expressed within this article are opinion and do not reflect those of  the TDCJ (Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice) in any way.



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