Murder and mayhem could have negative effect on Winnipeg cops’ mental states: psychologist

With the rising murder rate in the city, Winnipeg police have acknowledged concerns over burnout among their members.

According to a Winnipeg psychologist, it’s potentially a serious issue, as constant exposure to the type of violence police are experiencing could have a profound impact on officers’ mental states and personalities.

“When I think about the people I see dealing with the trauma on a daily basis, these really dire circumstances … that just means you’re on the street more often and you just have less time to cope,” Dr. Syras Derksen told 680 CJOB.

Dr. Syras Derksen

“It’s amazing what the human body can learn to cope with, but if you’re on high alert for too long and you don’t have ways of coping with that, you don’t have ways of coming down. You don’t have ways of talking about it, and if you’re not used to it and it’s too much at once… yeah, you get overwhelmed and you’re going to have consequences.

“They’re coping, but they’re becoming different people. They’re becoming harder people. They’re shutting down certain parts of their brain so they can actually cope with all that extra trauma and it’s not healthy for them.”

Derksen said he expects the police – and the city as a whole – will learn to tackle this problem successfully within a few years, but that it’s going to take time for Winnipeggers to learn to cope with a new reality.

“I think you have a city that’s dealing with a new trend and it doesn’t know how to deal with it, and it’s not prepared to deal with it,” he said.

“When that happens, there’s usually a crisis, and then there’s kind of a consolidation, where everyone in the system has to figure out their new role. There has to be a plan put in place in order to respond and that usually takes time.”

Winnipeg has experienced 22 homicides in only six months – matching 2018’s full-year total only halfway through the year.

Police said they’ve made arrests in 15 of those cases.

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