PTSD – the hidden price of emergency work

Last month the Winnipeg firefighters’ union launched a website dedicated to supporting firefighters and first responders with post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

This topic is growing in interest among first responder communities around the world  – exemplified by the popularity of this song about PTSD  by Canadian firefighter Kevin Davison – ‘When those sirens are gone’ ; it had over 117,00 views on social media since its internet release in November 2014.

As with all illnesses, not everyone is affected the same way, and people are affected to different degrees. In order to understand why these differences occur, a team of researchers led by psychologist Dr Einat Levy-Gigi conducted a study of 69 active firefighters with differing duty-related trauma exposure, and evaluated their PTSD symptoms.  This Huffington Post article discusses the research; the abstract for the study can be found here.

PTSD is a condition that can easily occur in the context of emergency service work. As the NZ Mental Health Foundation points out,

“Any situation where there was a risk of being killed or injured, seeing others killed or injured, or sometimes even hearing about such things, can result in PTSD.”

These situations are business-as-usual for first responders, and if PTSD arises the toll it takes can be immense and under-acknowledged.

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