The toll of depression and PTSD among police and their families | ABC News In-depth


Bruce was a very complex man, he was very clever, he was so kind and gentle with me and with children. He was gorgeous. He was just so unique. Michelle’s like my little sister and yeah well we’ve really walked the journey together. I was there with Michelle when Bruce passed and I
think we’ve never been far apart ever since really. You join the police, you join the fire, you join the ambulance… There’s people going to be afflicted by PTSD just comes with the nature of the job. Some officers are going to be exposed to horrific scenes or have horrific things happen
to them. Our crisis number will ring three or
four times a week with someone needing help. And that’ll either be a current
member a former member or a family member of a police officer who doesn’t
know how to cope. Bruce was diagnosed with PTSD, chronic depression and anxiety. He didn’t cope very well so he drank a lot. Bruce had seen a lot of trauma in
his life. Within the police and external to the police. And had never been able to
quite resolve it. It is common to try and numb up somehow. To try and make the pain, dull the pain, and alcohol’s readily available. First responders are used to helping
other people. They’re the people that are running into the burning building or
going to people when they’re at their most distressed. Internationally there’s
now been many, many surveys done and they also tell a pretty consistent story that
around 1 in 10 first responders who are out there working at the moment have
symptoms consistent with PTSD. We just need to help them before they start down
this path, you know. Do a lot more around I don’t think you could even use
resilience because I think they all have resilience because
that’s the job they do but you know, get in before there’s the signs of anxiety
and depression and PTSD. Despite the fact that police services around the country are doing good things in terms of mental health support or improving
the way they approach the problem, there is still that perceived stigma with
putting your hand up for help internally. We are a totally independent service where we don’t have any alliance or arrangements with any government around
the country and I think because of that independence people can trust us. They did care about Bruce.
We had some fabulous people from QPS. They ended up medically retiring him in
2008. Unfortunately what happens afterwards, once you’re out of the police
service, there was no support until I found Blue Hope. They were the ones and
that was only just in 2016, so we kind of managed on our own, on our own devices
for many years. I found them online. I didn’t even know, I was just searching
for someone like ‘Mates for Mates’ or something at the time one night Bruce
was in such a bad way and I thought I can’t, I need some help to get him back
to hospital and then Mark Kelly rocked up the next day. And this giant man rocks
up in blue suede shoes, well that’s what it looked like… And Bruce just went, what the f*** are those shoes you’re wearing mate? So it’s a slow build of rapport between them. What I found in him was a wonderful gentle soul, in trouble and struggling. When Blue Hope put out that they are
going to do the mountain climb to Mount Kilimanjaro, I um and ahh’d… thinking I
can’t do this and then I thought I have to do this. I have to keep you know
fighting for Bruce and other officers, and former officers. And I know Bruce
would have loved to do it. He would have been the first one to sign up for it. So
I just think, you know what I’ll climb that mountain and be closer to him when I get
up the top. So here I go!

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