Armed and irrational... PTSD in law enforcement, Firewalls by Eileen Schuh
In FIREWALLS Sergeant Kindle supervises Katrina and Shrug, two police officers suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He must dig deep to find the patience, skill, and understanding to deal with them. Both acquired their pain while participating in a police operation he was in charge of so he is deeply aware of all that they sacrificed and his and society’s indebtedness to them.
It’s not an easy task, though, to support two such needy officers, when overall Sergeant Kindle is charged with protecting the public. These armed officers over which he has command are experiencing a rage and terror that has no place in the present, they are haunted by irrational thought processes, and exhibit unpredictable and at times, dangerous behaviours. Kindle does his best to offer understanding, and provide access to professional help, but Katrina and Shrug push him to his limits.
Kindle is sometimes close to giving up on them, knowing that other’s safety must take priority. It’s a tough action to take but he eventually has to order Katrina to take sick leave. That might be best for the nation, but is it best for her?
“That’s not a good idea! There’s nothing out there for me, sir. I’d be sitting home alone fretting about things. At least here, I have people around, things to do to keep my mind busy.”
“I can understand that. But as justified as it may sound, you can’t use your job as therapy. You need something more. If being alone is a problem, discuss it with the doctor. Perhaps he could find you a support group or—”
“No!” Katrina moaned. “No! Don’t do this to me.”
I point out in my book and in some of my promotions, that love, friendship and support play major roles in helping a sufferer of PTSD heal. Taking away someone’s job and all the social networking that goes with it, may not be the most helpful response. I realize, however, that is not always possible to remain responsive to those with PTSD. Not everyone is equipped to deal with workmates or loved ones changed by trauma. PTSD often exhibits as violence, irrationality, depression, and suicidal behaviours. There’s often much denial.
It takes an entire book for Katrina to accept treatment because she wants to be angry and hurting—to be otherwise seems to her like a betrayal to the victims of the violence she witnessed. This rejection of help is a symptom of PTSD and should not be judged harshly.
In FIREWALLS, PTSD steals Katrina’s sanity and her job and takes Shrug’s woman from him. And the Alberta Police Force loses two highly-skilled members. Without the undying patience of their commanding officer and the continuing support of fellow cops, this story would have had a much different ending.
That Shrug and Katrina were eventually able to help each other heal, is a testament to resilience of the human spirit. For those suffering from PTSD and for their loved ones, it is my hope that FIREWALLS not only affords insight in the disorder but offers some suggestions on how to encourage healing.