You have undoubtedly heard the term post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when referring to members of the military returning home after a deployment. However, PTSD is not a condition that can only effect members of the military. Because PTSD is a mental disorder caused by a frightening or overwhelming experience, it can also be caused at certain stressful workplaces.
PTSD can be caused from such professions as firefighter, law enforcement officer or ambulance personnel. It can happen when workers experience an event that is unexpected and the worker has the feeling they are powerless to change or stop it. Usually PTSD happens after witnessing a death or a tragic scenario such as an amputation or devastating injury.
The effects of PTSD can come on quickly or it can take years for some people to show signs of a problem. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states that an employer cannot fire you for PTSD. You can even ask your employer for assistance and accommodations to help you complete work if needed.
First responders, including police officers, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), paramedics, firefighters and state troopers, can suffer from PTSD as a result of experiencing or witnessing traumatic events in the line of duty. In as many as 90% of PTSD cases, the patient experiences another mental or behavioral disorder such as depression, anxiety, alcohol abuse, personality disorder, social anxiety disorder or increased risk of suicide.
If you’ve been injured in the line of duty, personally experienced, witnessed or been confronted with a traumatic event in the workplace resulting in PTSD, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
Contact Attorney Robert E. Wisniewski
Certified Workers’ Compensation Specialist of the Arizona State Bar
Working with PTSD may not be easy, but it can be manageable. As you continue your road to recovery, you may still need to work. PTSD is known to be responsible for memory loss, concentration problems, flashbacks and anxiety. If you are working with PTSD, here are some strategies you can do by yourself or with the help of your employer.
It is important that you are always aware of what is going on around you. If you sit at a desk that faces a wall, you should find out if your desk can be turned around so you don’t have people surprising you from your back.
Take breaks or have a flexible schedule
Your mental state will be able to manage stress and stay calm throughout the day if you can easily take multiple breaks. You may have to endure a longer work day, but the results may be well worth it.
Have support available
When the stress of PTSD hits, think about having a close friend or even a counselor at the ready to take a call from you. If it is at all possible, have this person be somebody who works internally with you.
You should not be hesitant to create a workspace that allows you to best complete your work. If your desk is near a busy area with noise, ask to be relocated. Feel free to change lighting, play light music or even close your office door if that helps.
Your PTSD in the workplace should be taken seriously by you and your employer. You may need to even educate co-workers and managers on what PTSD is and why personal changes in the workplace are needed to help you effectively do your job.
Bob Wisniewski gets the Arizona Court of Appeals to reverse the trial court’s decision. The trial court at the Industrial Commission of Arizona originally denied benefits to a police officer for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They held that the officer failed to file his claim within 1 year on the basis he “knew or should have known” he had PTSD. Wisniewski argued on appeal that the standard requires a medical diagnosis of a condition, not a layman’s perception. The court agreed and reversed the decision of the Industrial Commission of Arizona.
This court decision is significant, not only for this officer but for all first responders. Post-traumatic stress disorder often takes a long time to manifest its symptoms, and this now helps first responders who timely file after a medical diagnosis.