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Award-Winning Documentary Looks at the PTSD in Police and Other First Responders

Date: 2017-02-06
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The groundbreaking, 80-minute, award-winning documentary CODE 9 OFFICER NEEDS ASSISTANCE explores the darker side of law enforcement as it tells the stories of police officers and their families who are now suffering the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The kinds of things first responders deal with as a part of their public service careers can result in PTSD and even suicide. While focusing on police officers, CODE 9 has recognized that firefighters, EMTs and paramedics, public safety dispatchers, and correctional officers also face the psychological and emotional trauma of PTSD.

“Police have a 69% greater risk for suicide than does the US general working population,” wrote John M. Violanti, a research professor, with the New York State University at Buffalo Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health, and author of the 2014 study, Dying for the Job: Police Work Exposure and Health, who is interviewed for the documentary. “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is really a problem for first responders, and specifically among police officers. About 15-18% of police officers in the United States have PTSD.”

“We respond to many calls, some of which give us a front row seat to what will be the worst moment in peoples’ lives; and we will also bear witness to the evil and darker side of humanity where nightmares exist,” intones the film’s narrator. “…We quickly realize that we can’t think too much about it, and if it bothers us, we can’t say anything… This is all part of the first responder culture. It is a growing problem amongst firefighters who battle the fires as they also watch the horrors unfold. EMTs, paramedics, as they fight to save lives when every second counts. Dispatchers, who hear the screams and cries, who are left never knowing what happens after the calls. And Correctional Officers who must endure all that happens behind the walls of the prisons they man.  It changes you.”

CODE 9 examines the issue from the perspective of officers, their families, and professionals like Violanti and others, and stresses the need for first responder agencies to be caring and responsive in the face of an officer struggling with PTSD and other reactions to job-related stress. “While we expect many of our returning war veterans to experience PTSD, we generally have little awareness of, and offer no treatment for, our police here at home,” wrote Deborah Louise Ortiz, the film’s director and head of the Code 9 Project (and the wife of a retired State Trooper who served 22 years in Law Enforcement, and has survived his PTSD). “This lack of recognition and treatment has destroyed careers and families.” Through this film and the Code 9 Project, Ortiz is making a difference for first responders and their agencies in the recognition, support, and treatment

Information on purchasing DVD copies for the full feature film can be found at; additional information on the work of the Code9 Project, please see

Watch a free 8-minute trailer for the film on Vimeo here.

Follow the Project on Facebook here .

- People, Places & Things/ (2/6/2017)


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