After 18 Years in the Police Force, I Still Struggle With PTSD

The department never cared about my mental health, so I left.

After my first suicide attempt, in April 2016, I was medically suspended from duty by the police department I worked for. This took place while I laid in a hospital bed. I was told I would not be allowed back to work in any capacity until I was evaluated and declared fit by a department psychologist.

I contacted human resources the day after being released from the hospital and explained what happened and that I had been told by the hospital psychologist that I had post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. The response from the police department was that PTSD wasn’t considered a work-related injury or illness. For the next eight weeks, I sat at home in a sort of limbo. The department seemed to have forgotten I existed since no follow-up contact was ever initiated by them. No one scheduled me to see the department’s doctor. It was obvious I couldn’t count on their help.

My wife and I called doctors and therapists to try to find some sort of treatment. I visited three therapists and a psychiatrist during the next few months, and all the visits felt the same. During each one, I repeated my symptoms and reasons for wanting to end my own life so much so that it became boring to me. Therapists would ask about my childhood and my parents before they would ask about my job.

That’s where I’d usually start to lose them. It wasn’t easy trying to explain the violence and poverty I’d observed in my years as a cop in Baltimore. Sometimes I actually got a kick out of seeing them squirm when I described things I had seen in graphic detail. I had a ton of memories of violence I had witnessed. Some therapists asked for specific examples, and I took a morbid pleasure in trying to make them uncomfortable.

I found out later that the female burn victim died in the hospital. I tried to hide my emotions, but I cried, and that prompted the veteran cops around me to taunt and ridicule me. “Who gives a fuck?? Maybe they’ll close that retard house down now,” a particularly caring senior officer bellowed to no one in particular. I still remember that day vividly.

I recalled a man with terminal cancer in Roland Park who shot himself in the head. His mother sat at the kitchen table silently crying while I stood over her son’s body in the next room. We were required to notify homicide for suicide calls, and I remember how nonchalant the responding detective was. He barely poked his head in the door and said, “Suicide. You don’t need us. Call a lab.”

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