Are NSW police officers facing a PTSD crisis?

Published 22 Aug 2017

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is often associated with soldiers coming back from war zones, but it's a condition that can affect anyone who suffers harrowing experiences.

It's therefore not surprising that a significant number of police officers across the country are being diagnosed with PTSD, as those in the profession are routinely and repeatedly exposed to stressful situations.

Mental health leading to medical discharges

Earlier this year, the Daily Telegraph revealed that 1,300 NSW officers had been medically discharged with psychological problems within the last five years. A staggering 650 personnel were signed off in the 2011-12 financial year alone.

"Our men and women in blue are often confronted with the very worst of humanity," said NSW Police Minister Troy Grant.

"Policing is an enormously challenging profession, and after spending 22 years as a cop, I know all too well the toll it can take."

Mr Grant has previously opened up about his own experiences with PTSD, speaking to NSW parliament last year about the mental health problems both he and his father suffered while working as policemen.

His comments, published in the Northern Star, described how he was only able survive PTSD through the help and support of his family, friends and trained psychologists.

Are insurers failing PTSD sufferers?

Last month, the Sunday Telegraph uncovered through a freedom of information request that 525 police officers who have made insurance claims for psychological illnesses since 2012 have been put under surveillance.

Insurers often monitor individuals to gather evidence that contradicts their claim, enabling the firm to reject payout requests.

According to the newspaper, officers who are unable to return to work also face significant delays in receiving damages. Claimants are waiting an average of six years for compensation, up from four years in 2012.

Former policeman Robert Cousins told the Telegraph that he began to experience PTSD symptoms after 20 years on the job. Eventually, he became detached from family and had suicidal thoughts.

He was discharged from the force in 2009 but became locked in a four-year battle with police insurer EML over damages.

"Due to the intrusive tactics employed by EML with respect of covert surveillance, access to my taxation records, constant appointments with vocational centres for 'return to work' programs, I really felt I was nothing but a piece of property still owned by the NSW Police and EML," he explained.

Making an insurance claim for PTSD

Unfortunately, Mr Cousins isn't the only former police officer to encounter difficulties when making a claim.

This is why any professional who cannot return to work due to PTSD or other psychological illnesses should contact a lawyer if insurers are refusing to pay TPD cover or other benefits.

Please get in touch with Gerard Malouf & Partners Superannuation Lawyers to discuss TPD, income protection or critical illness claims.

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