Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Victoria's first responders

When people expect you to be superhuman it can take its toll, says a Geelong police officer, who wishes to remain anonymous.

“In a way you buy into their notion and you can fix anything because you do to an extent,” said the officer.

“The hard thing is when you believe you are strong enough to deal with anything, the emotional toll of many and varied traumatic incidents over a sustained period can bring it all undone.

“You realise that you’re not superhuman and suddenly it all falls apart," said the officer.

The officer suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Explaining that she felt weak, she that “you feel guilty because you weren’t strong enough, you feel you have let the community down, as well as your colleagues and your family".

“Many friends tell me they don’t know how I do my job – I can’t any more. The memories and visions will never leave me. They are a part of me, they torment me,” the officer said.

Thanks to a new partnership with WorkSafe, The Geelong Clinic now offers PTSD treatment to first responders – like the police officer.

“My treatment at The Geelong Clinic has been fundamental in starting to rediscover a lot of what I have lost,

“I’m not ‘fixed’ but I’m on the path towards recovery. I don’t feel weak anymore and I know now that I’m not alone," explained the officer.

First responders are the first to arrive at an emergency, and deal with crashes, death, violence and other circumstances well outside of ‘everyday life’.

The police officer found herself suffering from sleeplessness and round-the-clock anxiety, and wanted to withdraw from friends.

“When you begin to understand how your brain works it takes some of the fear out of the PTSD symptoms,” the officer explained.

The 12-week PTSD program, is available to first responders, veterans and defence personnel and involves anxiety and anger management, trauma-focused cognitive behaviour therapy, drug and alcohol education, and individual and group therapy

“The strength of the bond formed with this PTSD group at the Geelong Clinic is enormous, we have bared our souls to each other, shared our stories and our fears," said the officer.

The Geelong Clinic is the only Victorian regional accredited hospital to partner with WorkSafe to provide PTSD treatment.