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PTSD is prevalent among emergency workers -- what is it?

If you are a paramedic, a firefighter or another emergency worker in Ontario, the trauma you face while responding to emergencies every day will likely haunt you. While many people think only war veterans suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, first responders, correctional workers and even nurses face traumatic situations in which their attempts to save lives are not always successful. Their experiences often leave scars that few others notice.

You may not realize that long-term disability claims often include anxiety, depression and PTSD along with chronic pain. However, the avenues for claiming long-term disability can still be a bit bumpy and might require professional assistance.

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder can follow experiences of witnessing tragic events that involve death or near-death, physical or sexual violence, or other extremely disturbing incidents. If you were in such a situation and absolutely powerless to stop the traumatic event, you may end up suffering this mental illness. Examples of occurrences that may cause PTSD include the following:

  • Violent crimes
  • Accidents
  • Natural disasters
  • War and conflict

How can PTSD affect you?

You may have recurring nightmares or re-experiences of the trauma of the event that could include flashbacks -- often recurring unexpectedly as if out of nowhere. You may feel on edge and nervous for no reason and startle easily, and you may struggle to concentrate. Some victims have a constant feeling of impending disaster, even in circumstances in which they are perfectly safe. Loved ones of people living with PTSD sometimes describe their partners' presence as zombie-like and detached with a lack of emotion.

Who is most likely to suffer PTSD?

People experience trauma in different ways, and while some may be able to handle certain circumstances, others may experience long-term issues after having been witness to trauma. Various factors typically come into play such as how long the exposure lasted and also how frequently it occurred. As an emergency worker, you may deal with triggering events several times per day.

What can you do about it?

Try not to ignore or hide PTSD. Unfortunately, some people feel guilty or ashamed and too embarrassed to seek help. PTSD is not something most people can work through by themselves -- help is available. Treatment options include medication, counselling and support groups. If you have questions about compensation for the expenses related to treatment you may get the answers from your employer -- else you are free to seek legal counsel to learn about your right to claim long-term disability.

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