The victim of a horror police shooting in Glen Innes said she will never fully recover from the shock of that moment. But it would have been far easier if there was a charity to help.
Former Senior Constable Helen McMurtrie now lives in Armidale, and is just one of over a thousand members to retire from NSW Police as a result of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the last decade. It's a number that grows larger every year - but unlike military veterans, there was no dedicated charity to help her through the diagnosis, until this year.
She's now an advocate for newly-founded emergency services charity Emerge and See.
Alana Singleton, herself a cop of 15 years, created the organisation after her own battle with PTSD.
"For anyone who has PTSD under any circumstances, when it forces you to leave an occupation that is your identity and holds such camaraderie, one of the biggest things you lose is that community," she said.
"At the beginning it was a support for Helen knowing there are people going through similar things."
Emerge and See is open not just to police, but also paramedics and firefighters, she said. Even its name is a pun on emergency.
Mrs Singleton said she came up with the idea for the organisation after she found herself getting support by military veterans' group Soldier On during her own PTSD battle.
"I just felt alone, I felt confused, and I didn't know anyone else that had PTSD. I think that people diagnosed with PTSD, they don't tend to stay in communication with other police," she said.
"I felt like it was just a constant battle, it was a battle to keep myself well, it was a battle with the system, the processes and procedures.
"When I was first receiving treatment that was for emergency services and veterans with PTSD, they ran a program I was actually lucky enough to be able to go on, which was a sailing day that Soldier On had organised. I thought why don't the emergency services have something similar?"
Mrs Singleton said the new charity will aim to work in the same way, helping people navigate the maze of bureaucracy, organise social activities and help connect them to legal and medical help.
Like many ex-cops, Ms McMurtrie was a believer in dealing with her mental health problems herself - but has come to realise that's impossible. She's now on medication, and sees both a psychiatrist and psychologist. She said she will never be cured - she's just "working on my recovery".
Ms McMurtrie said cops have an added stigma that can keep them from seeking help, even when they're desperately need it.
"As a police officer you're the one who's called to fix the problems. And every problem is put on you and it is your job to try and fix it or fix it as best you can. And so when you become the one that needs fixing, it's a very hard thing to accept," she said.
About 1646 police officers retired due to post traumatic stress disorder between 2012 and 2020, according to NSW police statistics. Most of the 1121 police who claimed worker's compensation for the mental health complaint in the last decade were senior constables, later in their career. Claim rates are trending upwards every year, the statistics show.
NSW Police Legacy, an organisation founded to help the families of deceased cops, also offers support to former police.
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