While many of us have heard of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD), it is less commonly understood that PTSD can affect any person and at almost any point in their life. It is also likely that individuals who do have PTSD will experience symptoms in the workplace.
The anxiety disorder has only been recognised in clinical terms relatively recently.
The official government guidelines for PTSD treatment are currently in the process of being radically rewritten and updated, while data about UK sufferers is also hard to find and verify. At their website, PTSD UK acknowledge this, stating, “Although awareness and understanding of the condition has been growing, it is still true that some healthcare professionals might not know how best to treat the disorder, or how to recognise its symptoms.”
So how can organisations ensure they are safe and comfortable for employees with existing PTSD diagnoses? And how should they be prepared to adapt so they can support members of staff that might suffer a traumatic event while in their employ?
Any traumatic event an individual may experience can give rise to PTSD. Veterans who return from combat are susceptible to the condition, as are those who suffer sexual or physical abuse, and those that experience a health crisis or witness a natural disaster. It may not be immediately clear to employers that a staff member is suffering from PTSD and it is possible for symptoms to emerge many years after the event that triggers them.
Existing government guidelinesdo have some good information about the range of possible PTSD symptoms. These include: re-experiencing, avoidance, hyperarousal, depression, emotional numbing, drug or alcohol misuse and anger. They can manifest themselves in particular ways in the workplace; employees might have difficulty managing workloads or concentrating on projects and they may find it hard to interact with other members of staff.
Inclusive work environments
It is possible for workplaces to support PTSD sufferers through dialogue. Frameworks should be in place for staff to be able to speak in confidence about their condition and how it affects them specifically. Small changes – from flexible working hours, to assistance with time-management – can lower anxiety around hitting targets and make things much more achievable.
Treatments for PTSD can range from watchful waiting, cognitive behavioural therapy and medication such as antidepressants. It is important for staff to be able to talk about how their work environment can best accommodate them while they are having treatment for PTSD. Time off for counselling sessions and ensuring that colleagues are trained in understanding symptoms, treatments and the needs of PTSD sufferer can make the work environment better for all and increase chances of successful treatment.
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