Secondary Traumatic Stress
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and operational stress injuries are typically associated with what is referred to as a “primary” trauma, where the event involves a threat to the safety of the police member. Psychological symptoms include depression, anxiety, distressing emotions, intrusive imagery, numbing or avoidance, and, sometimes, dissociation. Stress-related illnesses also include psychological injuries such as PTSD, anxiety, and chronic difficulties with memory. Police administrators are certainly not immune from secondary traumatic stress. Beyond the horror that might be heard on the phone line or radio, dispatchers and call-takers have the added stress of having to rely on other people to provide them the information they need to do their job. Police who go from call to call, problem to problem, may find their worldview changing for the worst. Some officers use avoidance coping by making a point not to learn personal details about victims or using dark humor to lighten the intensity of the situation.