PTSD is usually associated with former service personnel reliving some of the traumas of their active careers. However increasing evidence now links PTSD to victims of violent assaults, children who have been subject to abuse and people who have witnessed serious accidents or attacks. The environment in which our officers work has exposed some of our members to situations which may result in them suffering PTSD:
- Immigration Enforcement officers are subject to increasing level of hostility. There have been several recent, brutal attacks on our colleagues.
- Members operating in the Eurotunnel site have witnessed intruders being electrocuted or maimed by trains.
- The staff in Paris and Brussels were caught up in the recent terrorist activity.
In approximately 85% of cases symptoms of PTSD will develop in the immediate aftermath of the traumatic event. However my experience working with the Royal British Legion has demonstrated to me that most people who suffer from PTSD don’t recognise the symptoms in themselves. This is where a good friend group, family support or alert work colleagues prove to be invaluable. Usually the sufferer will exhibit behaviour that is out of character.
Symptoms of PTSD can include:
- Increased Irritability, especially with family members or colleagues.
- Vivid memories or flashbacks.
- Emotional detachment or a flood of overwhelming emotion.
- Difficulty remembering information or being prone to distraction.
The key to successfully treating PTSD is effective diagnoses. The ISU are working with the Employee Assistance Programme to ensure that appropriate guidance is given to members who may be suffering from PTSD. We are also pushing the department to acknowledge the risk and to introduce training for managers to help them identify staff who are suffering from PTSD as well as manage other causes of stress. In the meantime members should be aware of behavioural changes in their colleagues.
PTSD should not be confused with the stresses that the majority of members are subjected to on a daily basis. That doesn’t mean that stress in the workplace should be ignored. Workplace stress has been consistently rising across the service. The department continue to use a discriminatory performance management tool. Shifts are compiled in such a way that one doctor commented that “it would be difficult to come up with a pattern that could be more disruptive to the natural physiological state.” The Annual Hours Policy means many members struggle to achieve a meaningful work – life balance; and those who are not persuaded to sign up to what they see as an invidious policy are subjected to relentless corporate bullying. A chronic under investment in staff has resulted in many staff being unable to take Annual Leave, and the department’s response has been to try and buy it back from them at less than their normal hourly rate. These are examples of only a few of the many everyday stresses our members are subjected to. There has been very little offered to Operational Mangers to help them to manage stress in the workplace so it should come as no surprise that even less has been offered to staff who may be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress.