Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental injury, not a mental illness. The medical profession may classify this as a mental illness, but in my opinion this is an injury that has occurred as a result of the trauma and the violence that you have experienced as part of your career, whether you’re a police officer, a soldier, a first responder, or anyone else. PTSD is also something that sexual abuse survivors and victims of violent assaults can also suffer.
It is a mental injury that occurs because your brain and mind shutdown as a physiological response to try and stop the trauma that is affecting your mind and body. Another way to explain this, is that PTSD occurs because your brain goes through a physiological reaction to the chemical imbalance that occurs due to the high stress and adrenaline fatigue that comes about from extended exposure to violence and traumatic events. Whether that is as a police offer, soldier, first responder, or as a victim of abuse or violence.
If you were to experience an injury as part of your duties, for instance if you broke a leg, you were shot, or you were injured in a bad vehicle accident, you would obviously take the time and utilize the resources provided to rehabilitate yourself to get back to duty. The problem is, people who suffer from PTSD don’t see it as an injury. It’s not physical, it’s not something that is easily identifiable and there are no physical wounds or scars on the external body to show that the person is suffering.
That person feels as though the condition is a sign of weakness instead of a sign of strength. They can often feel as though reaching out for help is a sign of them being weak. The stark reality is this injury comes about because you have been brave for so long. You have shown the courage to do the duty and perform the job that so many other people in society are not willing and not capable of doing. Therefore, the injury that you sustain is no different to the physical injury that comes about from trauma as a part of your duty.
You need to put your hand up, take the help, utilize the resources, use the training, and implement the treatment so you can overcome it and rehabilitate yourself to get back to your duties, and back to being the best version of you, you can possibly be. Because of the type of work you do, and because of the type of trauma you see, you WILL experience some form of critical incident stress, and even possibly PTSD at some point in your career. Look after yourself and realize it’s an injury not an illness and it is not something to be ashamed of.
You spend your life helping other people, now it is your time to allow others to help you.