Stressed out Ex-cop fights for PTSD payout

Former Grafton police officer Stephen Bell with his daughter Cailgh.
Former Grafton police officer Stephen Bell with his daughter Cailgh. Adam Hourigan

FORMER Grafton police officer Stephen Bell gave everything to the Police Force, including his mental health.

He now suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and finds it very difficult to leave the house, spends days in bed and sometimes has breakdowns in social situations.

A dispute over a car park is enough to send him over the edge.

Mr Bell sees a psychiatrist every fortnight.

But the real battle for him and his family, and the 300 former police officers in similar situations, was the three and a half year battle with his insurance company, MetLife, for his $700,000 permanent incapacity payout.

Ex-NSW officers who suffer from PTSD are eagerly waiting a State Parliamentary forum to be held on December 2 into how former officers are being treated by the Force, State Government and insurance companies.

While Mr Bell won't go to the forum because it will be too stressful, his wife Nicole and daughter Cailgh will travel to Sydney to tell of their experience and how the treatment of the insurance company slowly broke down their family.

"When our kids were in high school we had to spend our savings and borrow off friends," Mr Bell said.

"I've seen a psychologist every fortnight since I retired, but I have only been covered to see them since November."

His office is stacked with doctors' reports MetLife continue to demand he take.

Mr Bell claims MetLife sends people to stake out his house every few months to try and video him, so it can prove he can still work.

"The insurance company keep up this constant surveillance."

Mr Bell asked MetLife for the footage through the Government Information Public Access Act.

He has footage taken of him caring for his horses, taking out the rubbish and at the shops.

Cailgh said the surveillance was most intense when her father first retired.

"It was really hard during high school. The surveillance started in Year 10 when I was 15 years-old," she said. "I felt alienated; it made me feel uneasy to leave the house because I had strangers following me."

Ms Bell said at her high school graduation her father had to sit at the back of the room near the emergency exit in case he had an episode and needed to leave.

"Lucky I was called first so we could go straight away," she said.

"It is sad to know what your police go through for their community, and then they get treated like this."

Wife Nicole Bell said the impact of the constant battle with the insurance company was enough to destroy a family.

"You're constantly building up barriers until eventually you shut down," she said. "Steve was my main concern because I didn't know what he was going to do."

NSW Member of the Legislative Council David Shoebridge is spearheading the Parliamentary forum.

"The failure of the Police Force and governments of all political colours to address PTSD with police is genuinely distressing," Mr Shoebridge said.

"I've had countless police, serving and former, and their family members with harrowing stories how they are injured and how they feel ostracised once they get PTSD.

"The behaviour of one insurer, MetLife, is nothing short of reprehensible."

Topics:  editors picks nsw police post traumatic stress disorder ptsd

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