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Secondary prevention for police officers involved in job-related psychologically stressful or traumatic situations

Secondary prevention for police officers involved in job-related psychologically stressful or traumatic situations

Zeitschrift für Psychosomatische Medizin und Psychotherapie 50(2): 190-202

Police officers are at high risk of being exposed to psychologically straining situations and potentially psychotraumatic experiences. In this article, such situations are exemplified and categorized, and the role and significance of secondary prevention following traumatic experiences is discussed. From 1994 to 2003, 649 police officers received secondary prevention after being involved in a total of 250 potentially traumatic or psychologically stressful incidents. Psychological support was provided by teams of specially trained professionals in the acute phase after the incident following careful psychological evaluation. In a retrospective evaluation, the diagnoses obtained were analyzed with regard to sex and age and correlated with the severity of the incident. Three clusters of potentially traumatic situations were formed: (1) Employment of fire-arms with danger for the officer, (2) Standard situations including violence towards a third party, (3) Suicide or attempted suicide of a police officer. Police officers who experienced events assigned to cluster (1), comprising situations with considerable traumatic potential, had the highest incidence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other mental illness. Compared to male officers, females were more often diagnosed with other mental illness, whereas males had a higher incidence of PTSD. Cluster (2), which comprised situations of an officer's daily professional life, was not associated with an increased risk of mental illness. Officers were apparently capable of coping with situations considered psychologically straining for the general public without detectable evidence of a traumatic reaction. In cluster (3), which reflects the most dramatic interference with team relations, other forms of mental illness were diagnosed at a higher incidence.

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Accession: 050267776

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PMID: 15146394

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