A systematic review of mental health symptoms in police officers following extreme traumatic exposures
Cheryl Regehr, Mary G. Carey, Shannon Wagner, Lynn E. Alden, Nicholas Buys, Wayne Corneil, Trina Fyfe, Lynda Matthews, Christine Randall et al.
In addition to high-risk and high-stress events that police officers routinely encounter, many are also exposed to extreme traumatic exposures or disasters caused by nature (eg. Hurricanes) and human action (e.g., terrorist attacks or plane crashes). These exposures can result in a variety of adverse reactions including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), acute stress disorder, major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders. Understanding and accurately measuring the burden of disease arising from involvement in extreme events, on policing organizations and individual police officers is critical for policy makers and those who plan and deliver services. This systematic review synthesizes existing research on large-scale disasters, in order to further our understanding of how extreme events impact the mental health of police officers. The results found variability in the reported rates of mental disorder; however, there are some clear trends. Overall, the rates of PTSD among police officers that are consistently lower than those of civilians affected by the same disaster, and are lower than other occupations. This undoubtedly speaks to the resilience and training of members of policing organizations that prepare them for this work. Studies also demonstrate that reported distress in terms of acute stress disorder, anxiety and depression, continues to rise in some groups as time-elapsed from the event lengthens; suggesting a need to ensure that mental health supports are provided at later stages after the event.