Helping employees with PTSD

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that sometimes develops as a result of a traumatic experience. These experiences may include terrorist activities, violent personal assaults, serious accidents, or even being a witness to one of these events. The disorder can also occur in individuals that have a direct relationship to a victim, or someone who is constantly exposed to traumatic events through their work, such as an EMT or police officer.

Identifying those who suffer

PTSD is usually activated when a trigger consciously or subconsciously causes a person to experience the “fight or flight” response despite there being no current threat. These reactions are life savers when there is a threat, but for PTSD patients, they can be debilitating. Most people who experience PTSD have a range of symptoms that are divided into 4 categories:

  1. Intrusive symptoms related to the event, such as nightmares, flashbacks, or unwanted thoughts about the trauma causing the person to relive the event in some way.
  2. Unusual patterns of avoidance orchestrated to help them stay away from certain people, places, or situations that are reminders of the event;
  3. Deeply depressive or paranoid feelings toward life, people, situations and places making it impossible to enjoy otherwise positive experiences and emotions.
  4. Feeling overly-stimulated, highly irritable, or easily startled resulting in a “jumpy” behavior.

PTSD in the Workplace

With the increased exposure to traumatic events such as active shooter situations and terrorist activities, it is more likely than ever that a company will have employees that suffer from PTSD. Many employees with PTSD have a lower productivity rate due to high absenteeism, difficulty concentrating, failing to meet deadlines resulting in underemployment and lower earnings. These outcomes can put a strain on their financial and personal lives, which can cause an emotional spiral. Also, most cases of PTSD are accompanied by other mental disorders such as generalized anxiety or a substance abuse disorder. Coworkers, supervisors, and human resources can make a huge difference in helping these people thrive on and off the job.

Employers Can Help!

PTSD can affect anyone. While workplaces are not treatment centers, there are a few things that employers can do to help an employee with PTSD manage their symptoms in a productive way.

  1. Create an environment of awareness, support and tolerance without putting the employee in the spotlight. Knowing the company is there to support them will help.
  2. Aid the employee by allowing minor adjustments to the work environment such as more flexible work hours, permitting extra time on non-essential tasks, and helping them avoid environmental triggers.
  3. Encourage the employee to seek out help through counseling. Many employers provide an employee assistance program (EAP) as either an added benefit to a life insurance plan or as a standalone policy. These programs allow workers to access mental health professionals for accurate diagnosis and stress management.
  4. Open a private and honest dialog with the employee about their experience and their triggers. They may not want to divulge all the details, but you should respect their wishes and work with what they do provide.

If you want more details on EAP services or other counseling services that you can provide to your employees through your benefits package, contact a benefits consultant today.