Job worry takes toll on our cops
FOR a job that so often involves dealing with the problems of others, very little attention is ever paid to the effect of traumatic events on the lives of police officers.
Death threats, violence and trauma are seen as being part of the job of your everyday cop, but regular exposure to bad situations can take its toll.
Research suggests that 95 per cent of Queensland Police Officers will experience work-related traumatic incidents at some point in their career.
An accumulation of torment can lead to lost sleep, increased stress on the job and ongoing mental health issues.
It is for this reason that the QPS and Police Health has invited former police officer turned behavioural scientist Dr Kevin Gilmartin to speak to police officers and their partners in Ipswich.
The American expert addressed a crowd of police at Brothers Leagues Club on Wednesday afternoon.
Dr Gilmartin discussed the changing attitudes about stress and the need to remove the stigma associated with seeking help.
"When you go into a heightened level of alertness on duty the body always responds with a heightened level of detachment afterwards," Dr Gilmartin said.
The ramifications of untreated stress can lead to anything from social isolation to weight problems - in addition to trouble sleeping.
Dr Gilmartin said exercise was one of the best and simplest ways to keep problems like depression under control, and he advised the QPS to provide opportunities for officers to get the excercise they need.
"Eighty-three per cent of police have sleep issues, and we know sleep issues are the single best prediction of bad decision-making under stress," he said.
Assistant Commissioner Tony Wright said preventing police officer burn-out was a key concern.
"Working as a police officer poses many significant challenges to the physical and mental health of our people, particularly as many can and do work in this vocation for their entire working life," he said.
"Like any long-term relationship and notwithstanding the trauma and human cruelty that our officers see frequently in their duties, our people can burn out and this poses significant challenges for the organisation; the individual; and workplace and personal relationships."
Queensland Police Union president and former Ipswich police officer Ian Leavers said analysing the effects of police work was important to the health of the workforce.
"Queenslanders are unaware of what the average police officer goes through in a day. We need to ensure that this high level of intensity, and the stress it can lead to, does not lead to mental issues," Mr Leavers said.