First responders at greater risk for post-traumatic stress

Psychological first aid and peers can mitigate effects of trauma
By Judith Plotkin and Stephen Kennedy
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 04/19/2010

Unexpected, traumatic workplace incidents can happen anywhere, anytime. Emotional distress as a result of trauma may not be as easy to detect as a physical injury but it can be just as debilitating and painful.

Although anyone can be adversely affected by exposure to a traumatic event, first responders such as police, firefighters and emergency workers have been shown to be particularly vulnerable to the development of stress reactions as they are often exposed to traumatic events in their day-to-day work experiences. These include compassion fatigue, acute stress reaction and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Although training, skill and natural resiliency help inoculate first responders from the consequences of frequent traumatic circumstances, it is clear the availability of support that combines mental health specialists who understand the first responders’ culture with trained peers can be of significant benefit in helping first responders remain healthy and on the job.