PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) is a possible response to a dangerous, traumatic or violent event. This might be an armed robbery, a workplace fatality or other serious workplace incident. It can also be caused by working or living in a war-zone, a physical or sexual assault, or a natural disaster such as bushfire or floods.
Effects of PTSD
PTSD happens when fear, anxiety and memories of a traumatic event don't go away. A person is diagnosed with PTSD when their extreme reaction to trauma lasts for over a month, or is delayed (symptoms don’t come on until months after the trauma). The feelings last for a long time and interfere with how people cope with everyday life; PTSD can be severe, disabling and long-lasting.
Symptoms can include:
- flashbacks and feelings of re-experiencing the event
- low mood
- feeling detached from reality
- avoiding thoughts and feelings about the event, trying to stay away from things, places and people that remind you of it
- feeling ‘on edge’, finding it difficult to relax, sleep or concentrate.
- lead to other conditions such as depression or substance abuse.
- have a devastating impact on the affected person’s relationships and families.
However, with the right professional support and treatment, recovery is possible.
Occupations most at risk
Military personnel, police officers, prison officers, paramedics and emergency services officers are regularly exposed to situations that may make them vulnerable to developing PTSD. Workers in some areas of nursing, such as mental health nursing, may also be vulnerable.
If your workplace has the potential for a traumatic event, or your workers are in at-risk occupations, develop programs so you can provide access to immediate, professional mental health help to workers.
Formal treatment may not start immediately, but it’s important during those first few days and weeks to provide whatever help is needed. Support from family and friends is important to most people.