Life Sentence is a powerful memoir of one man's experience in the police force, and the devastating psychological impact it had on him. Simon was a police officer for 15 years, before leaving the police force with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Simon speaks to Gman on Big Brekkie about PTSD. As soon as Simon Gillard could join the Police Force, he did. He climbed the ranks from probationary constable, and as his experience grew so did the number of cases he worked on. Working in stations around Sydney, he was tasked with investigating suicides, high-profile murders, paedophile rings and even the actions of a colleague.
Simon never spoke to anyone about the traumatic things he’d seen and had to do; not colleagues, friends, professionals or even his wife. It reached the point where he couldn’t close his eyes without images flashing through his mind: unsolved murder cases he couldn’t let go, bodies he had seen over the years, and schoolboys, not much older than his own son, whose lives had been destroyed. With his personal life in a shambles - a marriage dissolution and custody battle of his son - he began to suffer panic attacks and nightmares. As the cases mounted, so did the pressure, and over time Simon made four separate attempts on his own life.
The pressure didn’t ease once he was formally discharged from the Police Force in 2012. Hounded and harassed by insurance companies who thought he wasn’t genuinely ill, still facing a custody battle and afraid to truly admit how far he had spiralled out of control, Simon was still on a self-destructive path that affected not only him, but his wife and children. Life Sentence is a powerful memoir of one man’s experience in the police force, and the devastating psychological impact it had on him.
Although there is no real understanding of actual numbers of emergency services who have been diagnosed with PTSD, it is thought to be around 10%. Simon has spent the last two years advocating change; trying to remove the stigma that surrounds mental illness, and create awareness of PTSD. He has worked on numerous projects including early intervention to prevent suicide, and the promotion of coping mechanisms for sufferers.