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14 May 2019
WILTSHIRE Police's chief constable claimed that a rise in officers receiving abuse and lessened stigma around mental health has led to more reports of PTSD symptoms from his staff.
Kier Pritchard spoke after a study of almost 17,000 police stations around the country found that 20 per cent of officers who experienced trauma in the line of duty later reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Chief constable Pritchard said: "I’m not surprised that it’s so high. I think it’s further evidence of the incredible role that policing plays in protecting people in our society.
"I’ve heard of staff receiving secondary trauma from watching body camera footage, call handlers being hugely affected by what they hear, officers viewing graphic images of child exploitation, trauma comes in many forms."
Fjgures from British Transport Police revealed that the county's police force has the highest officer assault rate in the country, with 12 assaults for every 100 officers in 2018, based on 103 reports of such attacks which is double the amount from the year before.
CC Pritchard added: "When the public are running in one direction, officers are heading in the other and are more likely to be exposed to trauma but they do not put their lives on the line to be attacked. Society’s respect towards police and all emergency service workers in uniform has reduced and led to more severe abuse than I’ve experienced before, officers are being assaulted, abused and treated like a societal punching bag."
Kier credited initiatives like Mental Health Awareness Month with lessening the stigma around talking openly about personal struggles.
He said: "I think it’s a real positive that we are having a conversation about it nationally and publicly. I’ve experienced trauma and I’m happy to receive help and support when needed, and I want other officers to feel that they can do the same.
"We are better at understanding mental health and encouraging people to report when they are struggling so that they know the events they experience are abnormal but their reaction is completely normal and they will be supported."