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CopshockReview - Copshock
Surviving Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
by Allen R. Kates
Holbrook Street Press, 1999
Review by Bruce Pollard
Sep 6th 1999 (Volume 3, Issue 36)

The front cover of this book contains a statistical statement that is horrifying in its simplicity.

"PTSD is a greater cop killer than all the guns ever fired at police officers."

I am one of the lucky ones.  I survived PTSD to live with it.  I have not beaten it and am not cured of it.

This book contains the stories of 9 cops from the USA and Canada and their stories of how they came to suffer from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.  These officers could have come from any Police Department in any country.  Each of the stories differ in the circumstances that led to the officers getting PTSD.  Some of the officers were veterans of the Vietnam Conflict, the Gulf War.  These veterans were seen as ideal candidates for Police service, they were already in the grip of PTSD.  Even though the reasons that they all suffered from it are different, the resultant problems that occurred are very similar.  The depression, the anxiety, their sense of loss, and defeat, and their long hard roads to recovery is well explained in all but one of the stories.  The story of Joe is the ultimate defeat by PTSD, ending in his own suicide.

All of them suffer from varying forms and varying degrees of dissociation, emotional deadening, flashbacks, anxiety, depression, anger, substance abuse, (legal and illicit), and a term that I hadn't heard used before, but one which my wife assures me that I certainly did have.  'The 1000 yard stare.'  I think that must have been the one that I used to describe to psychiatrists as sitting and watching the grass grow.

Any person that has ever been diagnosed with PTSD will recognize themselves in each and every one of these stories.  The cause of the onset will obviously vary, but the preludes to the diagnoses have a strong similarity.  The passion for work, the suppression of emotions, the lack of support, real or imaginary, the desire to beat the feelings, and the lack of understanding by departments.   The story of Christine exemplifies this.  She returned to work, after being badly injured by a knife wielding indigent, as a radio controller.  Her concentration ability was badly affected, and when she heard a call for a 'police in trouble' call, she flashbacked to the call that she made herself and which was never heard correctly.  As a result she couldn't remember whether or not she had heard correctly until the officer who made the call canceled it.  Fortunately in this case things worked out all right for the patrolman.  Things were never the same again for Christine.

A person with PTSD does not have to read this section of the book to know what PTSD is. Anyone who wants to know what it is, and that should include all people having any dealings with PTSD, any person considering joining a Police or Emergency Service, and the partners of one of these people, would be well advised to read this first part of the book. Copshock is easy to read, but it is not 'light' reading

The latter part of the book is an excellent reference section which is almost a complete handbook in itself.  The details contained in it are universal, with contact numbers, e-mail addresses, telephone numbers and postal addresses of counselors, CISM teams, peer support groups. Kates is still seeking to expand on this list for future publications.  It should be considered as a part of each police supervisor's kit.  To obtain Copshock for this alone would be good value for money.

A quote in the book that will stay with me for some time is:

"A thought once thought can never be unthought."

Bruce Pollard describes himself as follows:

I am currently undergoing a training course in "Everyday Counselling" and also doing a course in Theology.  I am 42 years old and spent 20 of them in the Victoria Police Force in Australia.  I am being treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and have come a long way as a result of the psychological and psychiatric treatment that I have had.  I hold a Diploma in Sports Psychology.  I am physically disabled as a result of a genetic blood disorder, and a spinal injury that I incurred in the Police Force.  My main ambition in life is to keep assisting people as I did, in my prior career, and to help out those, who need that little bit extra help in their lives.


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