June 27 was National PTSD Awareness Day and the mental health condition isn’t just limited to service men and women.
Police officers across the country put their lives on the line every day to keep citizens safe, and some of them do so while fighting their own personal battles, trying to cope with post-traumatic stress disorders.
“I’ve been a sufferer myself of PTSD, we have had officers that have suffered from PTSD,” said Captain Eric DiLorenzo with the Myrtle Beach Police Department.
At the Myrtle Beach Police Department, the impacts of PTSD are real and leaders in the department are doing whatever it takes to combat the disorder.
They offer resources like peer to peer support and formal psychological services.
“The resources come in two ways: either an officer can ask for help or a peer can say, ‘Hey, I’ve been noticing some things, I just wanted to check in with you,'” said DiLorenzo. “Or if it’s a critical incident, it is actually mandated that officers go through a debriefing.”
For each officer, the cause of PTSD can be different.
“They could’ve been through something traumatic in their childhood, they could be a former veteran and then they come across a similar situation here and they get triggered,” said DiLorenzo.
According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, 19% of police officers experience symptoms of PTSD which in some cases can lead to suicide.
This is why leaders with the Myrtle Beach Police Department are incorporating PTSD courses when training new officers.
“We find that if we can prepare our officers to kind of know what they may be getting involved in when they become a police officer, your life does change, you see things that normal people wouldn’t see and prepare them for what the effects of those types of incidents are on you so that they know that they’re not necessarily crazy they’re just going through the process of dealing with the incident,” said DiLorenzo.
According to the online organization Blue Help, since 2016, 560 officers have died by suicide as a result of PTSD in the U.S.
Fifteen of those were in North Carolina and three of them in South Carolina.
Governor Henry McMaster’s Administration has set aside funds for first responders to receive mental stress management benefits, as part of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Assistance Program.
Those insured can receive up to $15,000.