INTRODUCING: OUR PARTNER THE STRONG LIFE PROJECT
My name is Shaun O'Gorman, and I am a retired Queensland Police Officer. I retired 16 years ago suffering PTSD, severe depression and battling suicide. I have spent the past 16 years educating myself on all things mental health, human behaviour and personal development to get out of the darkness. I now help other people deal with the tough times in their own lives with a particular focus on Police Officers and their families.
I have recently partnered with LE Gear Australia to provide Police, Military and First Responders with practical education and strategies to understand why what they see and experience affects them and how to minimise this impact.
I wanted to share a little of my story, so you understand who I am and what I will be doing here at LE Gear Australia.
I joined the Queensland Police Force in 1989 at 19 years old. My father was a Police Officer for 42 years as was my Uncle. The job ran in my family. I wanted to be a cop from my earliest memory because of the amazing work they did and the respect that they held in the community.
In 1992 I joined the Dog Squad (K9 Unit), and this had been my dream since I was six years old when I had seen a Police K9 display at our Police Academy when my Dad took me to an open day there. He was a 100 miles an hour Police Officer and was very well respected. I LOVED being a cop and especially being in the Dog Squad. Nothing made me happier than driving lights and sirens to an armed offender, pursuit or violent domestic job. It was my whole life and my whole identity. This was to be my downfall in years to come. I would seek out the most dangerous and violent jobs because that was what I loved to be able to help with. I joined the job to help people and make a difference by standing between the scum of society and the decent humans, and it was the most fun I could ever imagine. Despite the fear from the violent and dangerous situations, I could not get enough of it. I was involved in many dangerous and violent jobs, from a vehicle pursuit where two offenders fired multiple rounds at us pursuing them until they ultimately suicided right in front of me, to capturing a dangerous wanted armed robber who, as I was dragging him out of his vehicle after another pursuit, was reaching for a full automatic SKS rifle with 30 rounds in the clip. I have taken guns off many offenders and been threatened with knives on multiple occasions and involved in more violence then I can remember, and I LOVED it more than anything, it was my purpose.
Towards the latter part of the 1990's I knew that I was beginning to struggle with what I had seen and experienced, but I was too scared to ask for help. I had seven years of assault complaints from offenders during this time as I was catching a lot of criminals and during this period the standard Modus Operandi was for defence lawyers to tell offenders to make excessive force complaints. The stress from constantly being under scrutiny also took its toll and as I was unwilling to stop locking up criminals this wasn't going to change in a hurry. I went to the Covert and Surveillance unit for a short time in 1998 because of the stress that the complaints etc. were causing me and I was becoming more angry and violent. During this time, I was drinking excessively and had conflict in most relationships in my life. I loved the work in this unit but found the pace too slow. After one and a half years I went back to the dog unit in Logan, a violent part of Brisbane.
After a few months back in the violence and stress I hit rock bottom. I didn't want to put my uniform on and go to work; I didn't respond to jobs unless I was tasked, I didn't hang around other cops at work, I really isolated myself because I knew I wasn't coping and the shame was overwhelming. I was so scared of losing my career, and my identity and the suicidal thoughts were really strong at this point, I was in a really bad way.
In 2001 I attended an incident where an Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Member had stabbed another OMCG member 14 times and fled into the darkness on a semi-rural property. I tracked him with my Police Dog and we located him in a caravan on the property. There were a number of other Police with me, but I was standing in the open with no vest and no cover really not caring if I was shot and killed. I called him to the door and he came out covered in blood carrying a carving knife and a machete. He eventually surrendered, and we took him into custody. He was placed in the back of a Police car and I was getting in my vehicle about to leave when he started kicking out the windows on the rear of the vehicle. The other Police had gone a distance away to begin their investigation; I went to him opened the door and he started spitting blood at me and kicking and punching at me with his cuffs that he had in front of him by now. I dragged him from the vehicle and a violent struggle ensued ending with him unconscious from a rear naked choke hold. We restrained him, and hog tied him. I took a young Policewoman with me to get another vehicle and during the drive, I realized she was more scared of me than the offender and wouldn't engage in any conversation with me. I went home that night and went to sleep to wake up a few hours later crying, shaking and having what I now know was a mental breakdown. I never went back to work.
I resigned from the job nine months later after battling suicide badly, including lying three nights in a row with a Glock at my head going to kill myself. I obviously didn't, and I am so glad that is the case.
I left the Police with such shame and guilt for being weak, I disengaged from most Police I knew and became quite isolated and battled depression, PTSD and Suicide for many years. My daughter was born in February 2005 and her sister in 2008, my beautiful girls saved my life. Up until the birth of my first daughter I battled suicide on an almost daily basis because I had lost my identity, my purpose and my reason to live, being a Police Officer. Now my girls gave me a reason to live to be the best Dad I could be.
I have spent the past 16 years doing every "happy clapper," alternate, weirdo personal development and spiritual course I could find, worked with heaps of professionals and read so many books to get back to a place where I now live a really happy and amazing life. I knew if I didn't do these things that nothing would change, yet I still hated just about every step of that journey. I have now dedicated my life to using this knowledge to help other people, with a particular focus on Police and Military, to deal with what they experience in their lives. I have recently completed over 40 x 2-hour workshops on Critical Stress Training for Police with my old department to help cops deal with the job and the impact on them and their families. My Police purpose has now been replaced by my mission to help people in a different way and I feel very blessed.
Now you know some of my story and the reason I am here at LE Gear, to deliver what I can to help you guys live great lives doing the tough job you do. I feel this is my way of giving back to the job that gave me so much.
You can find me at www.thestronglifeproject.com. I have written a book “My Dark Companion” that is about my story and how to avoid the same pitfalls I experienced and I have done over 700 daily podcasts on The Strong Life Project Podcast.