By Kae RobertsFeatures Opinion
The Ontario Ombudsman’s report, “In the Line of Duty,” which was published last year, speaks to the lack of training and member support provided by the Ontario Provincial Police and the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services regarding “operational stress injuries,” otherwise known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
As a former security officer, police officer and spouse of a police officer, I’ve a vested interest. There are two factors to be considered in the effort to effectively address PTSD. Those factors include:
- Removing the reluctance that police officers, protection / security officers or special constables have in seeking help for PTSD;
- and to support persons experiencing PTSD we must create environments for them to reacquaint with their bodies (cellular memory) where trauma resides as the means for healing.
To my first point, Ombudsman Marin is accurate when he describes PTSD as an “operational stress injury.” In his book, “In an Unspoken Voice,” Dr. Peter Levine shares a story of an Iraq veteran who referred to his PTSD as PTSI, the “I” being “injury.” The absence of blood or broken bone makes it no less that. With one small linguistic shift, the doors swing open to the many closed-in sufferers to get the help they need and deserve. In my research I learned that the U.S. Army has requested that the American Psychiatric Association refer to PTSD as an “injury,” suggesting that continuing to refer to the condition as a “disorder” creates a barrier for soldiers needing treatment.
To my second point; Dr. Levine advises that healing from trauma is accomplished by giving attention to the “unspoken voice”, our bodies, foretelling that, “therapeutic approaches that neglect the body, focusing mainly on thoughts (top down processing), will consequently be limited”, proposing instead that “addressing the client’s ‘bodyspeak’ first and then gradually enlisting his her emotion, perception and cognition is not merely valuable, it’s essential.”
It is then to let the body tell its story first, with, as the case may be, bodily expression, sound, tears, allowing the “wisdom and authenticity of the deeper self to process.” Talk therapy is required but unlike the intellect which can lie to us, the body doesn’t have that ability and as such there is value in letting it speak first. How might the intellect “lie” in cases of PTSD? At the risk of being stigmatized and not supported, the sufferer denies/ignores their injury. Conversely, where a safe space is provided for the client, the body will engage and unlike talk therapy, the body is processing information at trillions of interactions/second, causing a greater likelihood for immediate and sustained results.
In an article I wrote called, “Feasting on our Own” I speak to the issue of police deaths and injuries; that through policy and protocol, police services are poised to support families of members who have fallen in the line of duty; as they should for the ultimate sacrifice. That same level of engagement is a challenge however where an injury occurs; especially an invisible injury, due to the stigma attached to it. In the effort to de-stigmatize, and prevent a whole other kind of in the line of duty death, a culture shift must occur and it starts with calling PTSD what it really is: an injury to the body and soul of the person.
Kae Roberts is founder and president of Awakening Wave Organizational Evolution (www.awakeningwave.ca).
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