The controversy surrounding the case of Danny Fitzsimons highlights the desperate need for research into the mental health of private security contractors. Private Security Companies (PSCs) need to take care of their contractors' mental health in the same way as other organisations who place their personnel in harm's way. More research in this field could help PSCs better prevent and detect operational stress - including PTSD - among their people.
Over the past 15 years, there has been extensive research into the mental health of military personnel, but we know very little about the mental health of security contractors. Security contractors have often worked in the Armed Forces and are likely to have experienced many traumatic events whilst still in Service. Quite how they might have been affected by the military service or indeed by their work in the security industry is currently unknown.
The scant research which has been carried out into the health of PSCs suggests that up to a 1/3 of them might be suffering from traumatic stress conditions. Additionally, research carried out by King's College London has shown that many are concerned about coming forward for help because they fear the impact it may have on their job.
Monitoring and treating operational stress and other mental health issues in private security contractors is not only important morally, it also makes good business sense for these companies.
It means they are able to reassure their clients about the health of personnel that they employ, whilst also enabling them to demonstrate a duty of care and assisting those who are suffering to get rapid and effective care through early detection and treatment.
Many forward thinking private security companies are beginning to take this issue very seriously, and are developing operational stress policies and implementing measures to look after the mental health of their contractors.
At King's, we helped with the development of a psychological support process called Trauma Risk Management (TRiM) which is used by a number of organisations that predictably place their personnel in harm's way including PSCs and the emergency services.
Sadly, this approach is not yet the industry standard.
PSCs know that they cannot mitigate the risk altogether. However, it makes moral and economic sense to do what they can to reduce the chances of another tragedy like the Danny Fitzsimmons case by providing high quality psychological support for their people.