Ex-cop suicides after crippling PTSD nightmares
After 14 years of crippling PTSD nightmares, retired senior constable Craig Wilson took his life in a park not far from his home.
He had resisted the urge to end the pain he believed he inflicted on his family but three weeks ago the martial arts instructor relinquished his fight for what he saw was a shameful life, begging for support through the NSW police workers' compensation scheme to fix the trauma he suffered as a constable in Sydney.
"A lot of the nightmares were about Craig having to pull babies who died of SIDS off their grieving mothers within an hour of them giving birth, it's what police officers did then, he was in a great deal of pain when he died," his widow Megan Wilson, 48, told The Daily Telegraph.
"He battled with images of the dead and of the grieving parents.
"He had talked about taking his life, I talked him down a couple of times but he couldn't get over the shame, every three months, having to prove he was unwell to renew his workers' compensation certificate.
"In the end it was too much for him, the girls and I prepared for the time he would leave us but you're never quite ever ready for it when it finally comes."
"If he were alive now he'd say the work cover issues were at least 90 per cent the main reason for his stress, there was a lack of support and resources.
"We miss him so much, our girls won't have a father to walk them down the aisle.
"He spent his life protecting people, we've lost our protector," she said.
The father of three who retired from the police force at Bowral nine years ago began his career as probationary constable in Annandale, before rising through the ranks to senior constable and serving two years as Lance Corporal in the military police.
For the five years he was stationed at Annandale until 1995, he worked closely with traumatised parents of dead children transporting the small corpses to what was Camperdown Children's Hospital for autopsies.
He turned to alcohol to numb the pain of the haunting memories of the job he loved but finding the right psychologists and psychiatrists was difficult.
"They wanted to medicate him heavily, he was on 25 pills for anxiety and other conditions, and he didn't want that, and for the last ten years it was hard for him to get appointments as their books were closed," Megan said from her home in Port Macquarie.
"It was so hard for him to be seen that he would book a consultation with his GP for 15 minutes just to talk about what he was going through.
"There is such a lack of support for frontline workers who don't want to be heavily medicated and would benefit from alternative holistic treatments.
"Craig was doing well before he died, he had set up a business as a karate instructor, he loved teaching and was off the alcohol but then he was put in Baringa Private Hospital for three weeks for treatment but when he was released he didn't have enough of the right support he needed. He felt a burden on the police budget.
"We're not angry with him, we understand, the girls and I are lucky we had him the time we did."
Mrs Wilson is advocating a retreat for police officers fighting PTSD where they can undergo counselling, massages and receive minimal medication and better support for families living with PTSD.
Injured police officers are subjected to a punishing process to access compensation, first needing approval from their boss, then a GP, then the insurer.
If a claim is agreed, the officer must obtain updated workers' compensation certificates through their GP to be updated every three months.
If denied, the worker can lodge an application review with the employer's workers compensation insurer and be assessed by an independent medical assessor appointed by the state government's Personal Injury Commission.
The NSW police force says it is committed to supporting officers who medically retire, with programs help mental fitness and welfare management and partnerships with welfare groups like FORTEM, focusing on social connectedness, and Police Legacy.
"Workers compensation certificates are required every three months to ensure ongoing and regular contact is maintained with an officer requiring specialist care," a NSW police spokesman said
"This ensures the person's condition is continually monitored and assessed, and they receive the appropriate medical treatment and rehabilitation support."
The Police Association of NSW is constantly advocating that every officer is given the support they need, and deserve, to retire with dignity.
"We encourage every retired officer retains an associate membership with us so that we can assist them navigate through difficulties they may have during their transition out of the uniform," Kevin Morton, acting President of the Police Association of New South Wales said.
"We know that for many retired officers the toll of the service they have provided, and the deaths they have witnessed while performing their duties, never leaves them. That is a reality of police work that is too easily left unspoken.
"No retired officer should ever feel alone, and for their family's sake they should seek strength from their former work colleagues who also face the same challenges and share the same experiences.
"Our primary focus at the Association is to ensure new generations of officers receive welfare assistance on the job."
Originally published as Ex-cop suicides after crippling PTSD nightmares