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PTSD sidelines first-responder to shooting of Manchester police officer
Beland quietly took a disability retirement after 22 years with the Manchester Police Department, unable to work because of the post-traumatic stress disorder that followed Doherty's shooting. (Mark Hayward/Union Leader)
Last month, Beland quietly took a disability retirement after 22 years with the Manchester Police Department, unable to work because of the post-traumatic stress disorder that followed Doherty's shooting.
Long associated with war veterans, PTSD is gaining a foothold among people with no exposure to war. The recently released fifth edition of the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" adds language that specifically mentions first responders and rape victims, according to the Vermont-headquartered National Center for PTSD, which is part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Paula Schnurr, a psychologist and deputy director of National Center for PTSD, said the diagnosis of PTSD first appeared in 1980. It has grown in acceptance since then, especially after 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, she said.
Beland and two other police officers arrived seconds after Doherty was shot. Officers Brandon Murphy and Thomas Gonzalez worked on his legs, where five bullets had struck Doherty. Beland handled everything above the waist.
At home that night, Beland said, he cried with his family and thought the trauma would work itself out. But he talked about Doherty nonstop and wanted to visit him frequently.
On April 16, Beland collapsed in his bathroom. The following month, he collapsed during the ceremony with Gatsas, and it seemed obvious his career was over. With one child in college and the other in high school, Beland said, he was not ready to retire.
A Manchester native, Beland joined the police department after graduating from St. Anselm College. He was one of the first on a bicycle patrol. As a detective, he worked the Mary Stetson murder, a case in which the victim's torso was found in a West Side river.
"Every single case I looked at, I looked at in a clinical way," Beland said. His colleagues warned that he would take his work home with him, and he did. He brought files home to work late at night, but it never affected him, he said.
"We recognize that police officers, firemen, first responders ... you think of what they do on a daily basis, it can have an effect on them," he said.
Beland was on workers' compensation since his collapse, and last month the city made a $100,000 payment to settle any future claims, Beland said. The city remains responsible for any health care bills related to the PTSD, he said.
"It has to stop on its own," Beland said about his seizures. "My brain has abnormal, unbalanced energy, and it has to get rid of it. It's like my brain throwing up."
Beland remains on six medications and sees three clinicians: a neurologist, a therapist and an "eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapist," who uses a treatment that teaches the brain to file away traumatic events correctly.
He wants to write a book about his experiences with PTSD as a police officer. He also is considering drug-and-alcohol counseling, a profession that would allow him to help out the kind of people he often arrested - street-level junkies who sold drugs to support their habits.
"It was so nice getting up to meet with them," Beland said. "I felt I had a purpose again."
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