CWAR Chat Highlights: How to Support Front-Line Workers with PTSD



In case you missed it, yesterday we hosted an amazing discussion and Twitter chat, where Kim Barthel and Theo Fleury joined people across the globe in a conversation about supporting front-line workers with PTSD.

If you happened to miss out this time, here’s some of the highlights from Kim and Theo:

Starting with the basics, how do you define PTSD?

Kim: An unresolved state of weighted arousal following a traumatic experience that results in relentless anxiety. Trauma is in the eye of the beholder. What is traumatic to one isn’t necessarily to another.

Theo: It’s a triggered reaction to a traumatic event that creates fear and panic. It feels like we are still present to it.

Follow-up question, who can suffer from PTSD?

Kim: Anyone! But not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will have PTSD. Vicarious trauma or observing others suffering can also create PTSD.

What are symptoms of PTSD?

Kim: The body often produces symptoms of pain as a response to trauma.

Theo: Anxiety fear depression. Basically all mental health issues.

How common is PTSD for front-line workers?

Kim: Very common unless you process your feelings right away or shortly after.

Theo: I would say its the common experience of everyone. Trauma is the biggest epidemic on the planet.

What are some of the barriers front-line workers with PTSD face?

Kim: Fear of not being believed or of being dismissed and not supported.

Theo: Lack of support from their superiors and understanding.

Do you think the fear of no support is true in most cases, or is that just a perceived fear?

Theo: I think both would be the case. There is a lack of services period for every mental illness in this country.

What can you do if you recognize PTSD in a front-line worker you know or work with? 

Kim: Offer a supportive comment like “This was tough for me, how about you?” Vulnerability opens conversation. Brene Brown, says “Climb down the ladder and say I’m with you down here where it’s dark and scary”.

Theo: Just sit with them and be with them attuned and present.

Alternatively, what should you NOT do if you recognize PTSD in a front-line worker you know or work with?

Kim: Dismissiveness keeps trauma stuck in place.

How can we support front-line workers with PTSD? And what resources/tools would you recommend?

Kim: I’m thinking about the concept of “shake it off”. At least move your body for a moment between experiences. PTSD dogs are out of this world! They are so attuned to the symptoms and provide instant comfort. When you use the information from a trauma emotion to work on yourself it becomes a transformative opportunity.

Theo: The greatest thing you can do to show courage is to ask for help it does not mean you are weak. It means you care about yourself.

We also had some great resources added from participants in the chat: 

  • You don’t always have to use words to communicate. Pictures, songs, dance/ movement, etc. [@deanaruston]
  • TEMA Trust offers a peer support & family assist line across Canada as well as education and funding for therapy. [@meowkittykatt]
  • For those of you in Alberta, we offer FREE PTSD therapy services. Check our website! [@breakingfreefdn]
  • The Government of Canada has an app for PTSD. [@deanaruston]

If you’re looking for more on this topic, read our blog posts as we cover this often. You can also connect with us on Twitter, and view the full chat script by searching #CWARchat on Twitter.

– Written by Amber Craig
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