PTSD and First Responders

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is commonly associated with combat veterans. However, people in the workplace also suffer from PTSD. In fact, PSTD is one of the most common mental health illnesses linked to an employee’s work.

According to the Washington-based International Association of Fire Fighters, one in five firefighters or paramedics will suffer from PTSD at some point in their career. Consequently, many states’ Police and Firefighter Unions continue to campaign their legislature to expand coverage to include PTSD for first responders.

Definition of PTSD

PTSD is classified as a mental health condition triggered by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event such has as death, violent assault, natural disaster or serious accident. There is substantial evidence that first responders suffer from PSTD and that link has been highlighted by recent events in the United States.

Symptoms of PTSD

The symptoms of PTSD may or may not affect your life, which makes it difficult to perform daily activities. The symptoms include:

Behavioral: agitation, irritability, hostility, hyper vigilance, self-destructive behavior, or social isolation.

Psychological: flashback, fear, severe anxiety, or mistrust.

Mood: loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities, guilt, or loneliness.

Sleep: insomnia or nightmares.

Also common: emotional detachment or unwanted thoughts.

Protections For Employee’s with PTSD

Under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), If you have depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or another mental health condition, you are protected against discrimination and harassment at work because of your condition, you have workplace privacy rights, and you may have a legal right to get reasonable accommodations that can help you perform and keep your job. You may also have additional rights under other laws not discussed here, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and various medical insurance laws.  Depending on the state you work in, PTSD might fall under the category of an occupational disease. Unfortunately, like most worker’s compensation claims, how PTSD is treated depends on the state that you work in. Some states require a physical injury to be associated with a claim inherently barring any mental health claim. Other states allow mental health claims but only when the triggering event is out of the ordinary for the employee’s job.

New Hampshire Workers’ Compensation

Under New Hampshire Workers’ Compensation Law, an employee can receive compensation for lost time at work as well as payment of related medical bills if the mental disorder arises out of and within the course of the employment. There is also a requirement that there be a “physical manifestation arising out of the mental disability.” Often, this physical manifestation can include high blood pressure, ulcers, and any other physical manifestations. However, the New Hampshire Supreme Court has ruled that an injury “shall not include a mental injury if it results from any disciplinary action, work evaluation, job transfer, layoff, demotion, termination, or any other action taken in good faith by an employer.”

Protections for First Responders with PTSD

Lawmakers in the New Hampshire State House plan to take a closer look this year at post-traumatic stress disorder among first responders who are trying to save lives during the state’s opioid epidemic. SB508 in session for 2018. Title: Establishing a committee to study the prevalence of post-traumatic stress discover (PTSD) among first responders.