A Staffordshire Police officer said he “broke down” after dealing with a series of fatal and traumatic crashes.
Forensic collision investigator Andy Hogan-Hughes said his “mind just went” while photographing the scene of one fatal collision at the end of 2019.
Suffering with “flashbacks and suicidal thoughts” he was signed off work.
“As police officers, we see things that no person should ever have to see and we do things that no person should ever have to do,” he said.
Mr Hogan-Hughes said during a busy period for his team, he was called to work on a number of the most serious incidents.
“One day, I remember being at a scene and taking photographs of the deceased and the wreckage and all of a sudden my mind just went.
“I can only describe it as being similar to when a computer takes on too much and just stops.”
He said a colleague could see something was wrong and stepped in while he took a “breather”.
A few weeks later, Mr Hogan-Hughes said he “broke down” with a friend and ended up being signed off for up to five months with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), leaving him feeling “numb”.
“There was a slight embarrassment at feeling like I’d let my team down,” he said.
“As a man, working for the police, you always feel like you’re meant to be tough and unbreakable, and I just felt I’d let everyone down.
“I had tried to soldier on but that’s the worst thing I did.”
Mr Hogan-Hughes shared his experience to mark Time to Talk Day on Thursday, encouraging people to be more open about their mental health.
The first lockdown only added to Mr Hogan-Hughes’s problems – while he was off, even home-schooling sessions proved tough.
“In the early stages, I couldn’t deal with a lot of noise or concentrate for long periods of time as it started to really impact my speech.
“If things got too much I would start to stutter and my mind would fog and I would completely forget what we were talking about.”
Back at work
He said the experience left him feeling like “a failure and an embarrassment” and poor mental health also affected his physical wellbeing.
He has now returned to work and is urging others to speak up if they are struggling.
“The weird thing about it all is that I absolutely love my job despite it being the trigger for my PTSD and illness,” he said.
“I don’t ever want to go back to how I was, where I was just muddling through, but I have been to serious and fatal jobs since I’ve been back and my colleagues have been really supportive in helping me through them.
“I don’t know whether I’ll ever able to fully do the tasks I used to and I won’t know until I try it. It’s just a balance of not rushing it.”
Source: (BBC News)