Police officers have a high risk of injury through assaults, road traffic incidents and attending domestic calls, with many officers developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a consequence. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a common injury in populations involved in conflict and has been extensively linked to mental health difficulties. However, current research has not explored the frequency and sequalae of TBI in police populations, despite the elevated risk of physical and emotional trauma specific to policing.
To explore self-reported TBI, PTSD, post-concussion symptoms, depression and drinking to cope in a small sample of UK police, to determine the frequency of these conditions and their relationships.
Measures of TBI, mental health, and drinking alcohol to cope were administered to 54 police officers from a Midshire Police Constabulary.
Mild TBI with loss of consciousness was reported by 38.9% of the sample. TBI was associated with increased post-concussion symptoms (PCS). PCS were associated with greater severity of PTSD, depression and drinking to cope.
Exploring TBI in the police could identify a major factor contributing towards ongoing mental health difficulties in a population where, based on previous research, the implications of TBI should not be overlooked. Highlighting the need for further research in this area.
This research spans to identify the importance of routine assessment and increasing awareness within mental health services. Mental health treatments should be made amenable to a population with potential memory, planning and impulse control deficits. Further work in mental health services is needed to understand the level of ongoing issues that are due to post-concussion symptoms and those that are due to other mental health difficulties, such as PTSD. Thereby, educating patients on the association between TBI and emotional difficulties. A graduated return to work plan should be developed to enable a safe transition back to work, whilst managing any ongoing symptoms.
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