Norman Traversy, a former firefighter from Mississauga, says a sign with the words “Caged Animal” was left above his “cubicle” after he was diagnosed with PTSD, according to an article in the National Post dated Jan. 22, 2017.
People suffering from PTSD need to feel they are not alone and they certainly need to feel support from their workplace.
The fact is more and more people are suffering from PTSD due to their professions: first responders, veterans of war, doctors and nurses, all who in their daily lives witness the unthinkable.
One thing is for certain, with an increased risk for PTSD within these professions, a workplace strategy is needed to help support people tormented by this illness.
To effectively implement a workplace strategy for people with PTSD, a look at the disorder and its triggers is necessary. PTSD is considered a mental illness, which is often caused by the exposure to a traumatic event or series of traumatic events involving death or the risk of death; these may include accidents, war, basic life and safety threats.
These traumatic events are most often unexpected, rendering the person experiencing them powerless to prevent them.
Symptoms for many PTSD victims are the constant reminders of the trauma through flashbacks, nightmares and a sense of re-living the experience over and over again.
This is why first responders, military personnel and others are at a higher risk for experiencing PTSD in the workplace. They are constantly exposed to trauma, ultimately making their job unsafe, yet they cannot refuse “unsafe work” the way others can.
Since 2014, there has been a staggering 183 suicides by Canadian military and public safety workers, according to Vince Savoia, founder of Tema Conter Memorial Trust. And the start of 2017 has seen three first responders and one veteran take their own lives from the disorder.
The numbers don’t lie. There needs to be a strategy within the workplace to combat this illness and help these individuals cope without feeling a stigma against them.
An announcement on April 5, 2016, by the Ministry of Labour (MOL) stated that the provincial legislature passed Bill 163, the Supporting Ontario’s First Responders Act (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder). This bill no longer requires first responders to prove they have acquired PTSD from their profession in order to receive compensation benefits from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Broad (WSIB).
They must receive, however, a PTSD diagnosis from a psychiatrist or psychologist in order for entitlement. Ontario is the third province to enact such a bill with the other two provinces being Manitoba and Alberta. Although Manitoba made amendments to their bill on Jan. 5, 2017 to include PTSD in all professions.
This is a step in the right direction, however, there needs to be a national adoption of this act and it needs to include all professions at a high risk for PTSD.
Another step in the right direction is British Columbia MP, Todd Doherty’s introduction of a private member’s bill (Bill C-211) that would see guidelines, treatment and management established to track the disorder, as well as, educational resources for health care providers.
Bill C-211 held its second reading on February 9, 2017. The outcome requires the Minister of Health to meet with the Minister of National Defense, Minister of Veterans Affairs and representatives from the health and medical fields to develop a “federal framework” to diagnosis and treat PTSD.
There needs to be a workplace strategy for PTSD, absolutely, and part of that strategy needs to be that these individuals can come forward openly within the workplace and not feel ashamed or guilt ridden because of the stigma that exists. Empathy and compassion can go along way in how PTSD is view and ultimately in how it is dealt with in the workplace.