PTSS is quietly killing firefighters

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Much like war or rape, fire is shocking, life-threatening, unrelenting, and the damage is permanent. This puts firefighters at a high risk for PTSS. This begs the opportunity to speak about this specialized population and how the stress of their work environment puts them at high risk for Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome.

As I am not an authority on fire fighters as a topic. However, I searched the internet for information related to this issue that has recently come into my awareness as yet another example of industry-related or job-related PTSS.

Like mental health issues in general, the topic of whether or not people exposed to trauma in their work place are able to come forward to ask for help, or if help is made available to them through their work place, are hampered by the continued stigma surrounding mental health.

Because of this continued stigma, there are many people who suffer in silence and are afraid to ask for help for fear of reprisal. No, they probably won’t get fired, but reprisal comes in many forms.

Reprisal can come in the form of fellow work mates responding differently, management not offering promotions, fellow work mates being non-responsive when trying to engage in conversation, humiliating innuendos in public settings, etc.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression and other mental illnesses are not signs of weak or immoral firefighters; they are job-related illnesses that require treatment.  VIA firerescue1.com

Risk Factors for PTSD among Firefighters

A few studies have also looked at what factors might put firefighters at greater risk for the development of PTSD. A number of risk factors for PTSD among firefighters have been identified. These include:

  • Being previously in treatment for another disorder.
  • Starting work as a firefighter at a younger age.
  • Being unmarried
  • Holding a supervisory rank in the fire service.
  • Proximity to death during a traumatic event.
  • Experiencing feelings of fear and horror during a traumatic event.
  • Experiencing another stressful event (for example, loss of a loved one) after a traumatic event.
  • Holding negative beliefs about oneself (for example, feeling as though you are inadequate or weak).
  • Feeling as though you have little control over your life.
  • Hostility.

VIA Very Well

My heart and prayers go out to every human, animal and plant involved in these fires across the Western United States this summer.  This includes those of us who have enjoyed the beautiful forests, rivers, mountains and valleys as an intimate environment in our lives.

May we live to see these natural wonders of Oregon revived for our children and our children’s children to love and enjoy as much as we did.

I’m not a doctor nor a therapist. I derive my thoughts and feelings from my own experience, what I read, and the world that is evolving around me. For this reason, it is very important to me to know what other people think and feel. If you identify with my experience or if you have comments or questions – whatever – let me know.

Warmly, Susan
Together we light the way

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