Smith NIJ, Gilmour S, Prescott-Mayling L, Hogarth L, Corrigan JD, Williams WH
(2021). A pilot study of brain injury in police officers: a source of mental health problems?. J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs
A pilot study of brain injury in police officers: a source of mental health problems?
WHAT IS KNOWN ON THE SUBJECT?: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) has been linked to poor outcomes in terms of mental health, specifically, PTSD, depression and alcohol abuse. A lack of research evidence exists relevant to exploring the presence and implications of TBI in the police in the UK and globally, despite the elevated risk of physical and emotional trauma specific to policing. WHAT DOES THE PAPER ADD TO EXISTING KNOWLEDGE?: the rate of traumatic brain injury is highly prevalent in a small sample of police officers. Traumatic brain injury is a major source of post-concussion symptoms (physical, cognitive and emotional deficits) in police officers, which, in general, are associated with greater mental health difficulties and drinking alcohol to cope. WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE?: Traditional mental health treatments should be supplemented with elements of concussion care to address any cognitive, emotional and physical issues due to head injury. Interventions should be made more accessible to those suffering from a mild brain injury. This can be done through regular reminders of appointments, pictograms and by providing a concrete follow-up. ABSTRACT: Introduction 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 sequelae of TBI in police populations, despite the elevated risk of physical and emotional trauma specific to policing. Aim 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. Method Measures of TBI, mental health, and drinking alcohol to cope were administered to 54 police officers from a Midshire Police Constabulary. Results 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. Discussion 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. Implications for Practice 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. Abstract
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