Holding onto trauma?’ The prevalence and predictors of PTSD, anxiety and depression in police officers working with child abuse, rape and sexual exploitation victims

Foley, Jim; Jones, Fergal; Hassett, Alex and Williams, Emma (2023). Holding onto trauma?’ The prevalence and predictors of PTSD, anxiety and depression in police officers working with child abuse, rape and sexual exploitation victims. The Police Journal: Theory, Practice and Principles [Early Access].

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0032258x231183638

Abstract

Research into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other common mental disorders (CMDs) in police officers is limited, with the majority of research predominately conducted outside the UK, and no study quantitatively examining the role of social support in relation to the mental health of UK police officers working with victims of trauma. Therefore, this study aimed to examine the prevalence and predictors of PTSD and CMD in UK police officers who investigate rape, sexual exploitation and child abuse, along with the potential protective role of social support. Participants were police officers ( n = 353) within one police area, who completed self-report measures of PTSD, anxiety, depression and social support. Results showed that 23% of officers had potentially clinical levels of PTSD, 26% had moderate to severe levels of anxiety and 35% had moderate to severe levels of depression. Female officers, those of constable rank, those working with victims of child abuse, and those with lowest levels of social support had poorer mental health. There was tentative evidence that social support statistically moderated the relationship between tenure and depression. These findings suggest the need for bespoke help for the sub-group of officers experiencing mental health problems and for further research into the potential protective role of social support.

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