Mental Health Outcomes Following a Large-Scale Potentially Traumatic Event Involving Police Officers and Civilian Staff of the Queensland Police Service

  • Nicholas L. Kerswell
  • Esben StrodlEmail author
  • Luke Johnson
  • Elias Konstantinou


A large-scale potentially traumatic event (PTE) poses considerable mental health risks for police services. There is limited literature detailing the mental health outcomes following large-scale PTEs. This study examined the mental health outcomes amongst Queensland Police Service (QPS) staff following a large-scale PTE. Two hundred and sixteen Australian police officers and support staff involved in the response to a natural disaster completed a clinical interview and measures of psychological distress (Kessler 10) and post-traumatic stress (PCL-C) 4 weeks post-deployment to the incident. The results showed that approximately 24% of the participants had elevated levels of general distress, while 13% had clinical levels of PTSD symptoms. Age was associated with the severity of PTSD symptoms but not general distress. Civilian staff reported significantly higher symptoms of general distress and PTSD than police officers. Females reported significantly higher symptoms of psychological distress than males; however, no differences were observed for symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Finally, the K10 had strong convergent validity with clinical levels of PTSD as measured by the PCL-C indicating that the K10 may be a useful general screening measure of both general distress and PTSD symptoms when brevity is needed in a large-scale PTE mental health screening measure.


PTSD Kessler Trauma Potentially traumatic events PTE Mental health screening Mental health outcomes 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the university’s human research ethics committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Society for Police and Criminal Psychology 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Psychology and CounsellingQueensland University of TechnologyKelvin GroveAustralia
  2. 2.Queensland Police ServiceBrisbaneAustralia

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