Fighting PTSD among firefighters

Today is International Firefighters’ Daya day to recognize and honour the sacrifices firefighters make to ensure communities are as safe as possible.

Firefighters hold one of the most courageous jobs out there, but what’s not talked about as much, is the stigma surrounding a topic that has a grip on many first-responders—PTSD. According to a recent study on PTSD among first-responders in Canada, over 44 per cent of first-responders “screened positive for clinically significant symptom clusters consistent with one or more mental disorders.” This is compared to about 10 per cent for the rest of the population.

Because there is still a stigma regarding mental health and PTSD within firefighters, many people still struggle to come forward for help. To get the conversation going, let’s honestly talk about what PTSD is. PTSD is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a condition that occurs following the experience (through first-hand or witnessing) of something traumatic.

Individuals who survive trauma and have stress reactions (or re-traumatization) can develop PTSD, and it can have a damaging effect both physically and mentally. The effects of PTSD can range from flashbacks, difficulty sleeping, detachment, etc. However, many people with PTSD develop additional disorders such as depression, addiction and various other physical and mental health issues. And the biggest key to healing from these symptoms and trauma itself, is to simply talk.

“Talking. Safe, open and vulnerable conversation is such an undervalued force for positive change.” — Kim Barthel from ‘Conversations with a Rattlesnake’

First-responders can support each other by providing safe spaces for one another to talk about the experiences they share. Alternatively, simply recognizing the signs of PTSD in another and reaching out, can be a life-saving move as well.

“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.” — Kim Barthel

“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.” — Theo Fleury

If you’re looking for more guidance on trauma and PTSD, we post more resources every week on our blog.

— Written by Amber Craig

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