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First responders have high risk of post-traumatic syndrome

Posted On March 08, 2015

First responders are on the front lines when a crisis occurs in Illinois. After a fire, accident, crime or natural disaster, these professionals are the first to deal with the aftermath and help the victims. This demanding work can lead to post-traumatic stress and long term disability.

First responders infographic

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Who are first responders?

According to the U.S. Homeland Security Act of 2002, first responders are people who protect life, safety and property during the first stages of a critical incident. Certified first responders may belong to a variety of professions, as an Illinois workers’ comp attorney is aware. The role is most commonly taken in America by police, paramedics and firefighters.

Risks faced by first responders

First responders are on the scene shortly after a disaster has occurred. In many cases, the cause of the event is not yet fully understood. They must deal with complex traumas, urgent medical situations, the risk of contagion, the risk of possible further destructive events (as in a terrorist bombing or severe weather) and other serious issues. Triage and emergency treatment must be carried out under extreme time constraints.

Post-traumatic stress after adverse experiences

Adverse experiences on the job can cause the symptoms of post-traumatic stress to arise in emergency staff, even in people who are in otherwise good mental health and well qualified to carry out their duties. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 3.5 percent of adult Americans currently suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. This group includes many first responders.

Symptoms of PTSD among first responders

The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder among first responders can include all of the following:

  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Exaggerated startle response to sudden sounds and movements
  • Deliberate risk-taking or seeking out dangerous situations
  • Abuse of alcohol or drugs
  • Inability or unwillingness to talk about traumatic events at work

If these symptoms are left untreated, an Illinois workers’ comp attorney knows that PTSD can become disabling. In some cases, it may even lead to violent acts or to suicide.

Help for traumatized first responders

There is help for first responders who have suffered PTSD on the job. Many police, fire and emergency departments have begun counseling programs for traumatized workers. People facing the effects of job-related PTSD often find it helpful to speak with a Illinois workers’ comp attorney about their experiences.

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