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Putnam Lieb Potvin Dailey

It's not unusual for first responders to suffer from PTSD

If you are a first responder, you have a difficult job. Each workday, you see people at their worst. You may be able to consciously shrug off some events, but others may haunt you. Nearly every first responder has at least one story of a call that they still remember and still affects them even if it was years ago.

You also put your life at risk every time you put on your uniform. The particular job hazards you face depend on whether you are a fire fighter, police officer, paramedic or some other first responder, but the end result is often the same. Once again, you find yourself battling with memories that you may not be able to shake.

Perhaps you suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder

Just as you would tend to any physical wounds you suffer in the course of your job duties, you need to attend to your mental and emotional health as well. Ignoring it only leads to additional problems. You may notice that one or more of your co-workers drinks or takes prescription or illicit drugs a bit too much and too often. More than likely, this is to cover up and numb the pain they feel. In fact, there seems to be a cumulative effect of mental or emotional trauma as the years go by.

In other words, the longer you work as a first responder, the greater the likelihood is that you suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder whether you know it or not. If you find yourself drinking too much more often, you may want to address the underlying issue. Suffering stress temporarily after witnessing or experiencing a significant event does not automatically lead to PTSD, but if you still feel the same way after about a month, you may need help.

How would you know if it's PTSD?

In order to know the difference, you could watch for the following indicators of PTSD:

  • You suffer from chronic anxiety.
  • You can't stop reliving certain events.
  • You feel detached from friends and family.
  • You develop an issue with remembering things.
  • You experience trouble focusing.
  • You feel isolated and/or depressed.
  • You go out of your way to avoid anything that reminds you of the trauma that haunts you.

You may not want to seek help if you develop these symptoms because you believe it shows a weakness you can't afford in your chosen profession. However, it takes someone strong to recognize a problem exists and needs addressing.

You should know that the state of Washington recently changed the law to allow you to receive workers' compensation benefits to help you through your PTSD. With your life and the lives of others in your hands, you may need help in order to perform at your best every time you put on your uniform.

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