PTSD: Challenging, But Manageable

It's Easier Than You Might Think

A movement has started to inform employers that the dangers and frequency of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are often overstated. According to researcher Dr. Harry Croft, medical director at the San Antonio Psychiatric Research Center, whose views on hiring veterans were covered in an earlier post “The Right Reason to Hire Veterans,” "Not only are the rates and severity of PTSD  lower than many assume but, when understood, the impact of PTSD in the workplace can be managed."

PTSD Isn’t as Common as We Think
According to Dr. Croft, people assume that all service people coming back from Iraq or Afghanistan have PTSD. His own research shows that only one out of five returning veterans have some form of PTSD. What's more, Dr. Croft states that the severity of PTSD is also exaggerated. While Staff Sergeant Bales, accused of murder in Afghanistan probably has PTSD, he also has a number of other maladies that contributed to the alleged crimes, according to Dr. Croft.

Employers Need Education
Despite the fact that PTSD is not as pervasive or dangerous as some might think, Dr. Croft advises Human Resources professionals to educate themselves about the potential workplace challenges raised by PTSD. Some sufferers will experience flashbacks, causing potentially dramatic incidents. Others will find aspects of their civilian work similar to wartime experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. This can result in them avoiding those elements of their job, often without explaining why, according to Dr. Croft. These and other incidents can damage employee relations, hurt careers or even slow the business.  

Helping The Employee and The Business
Human resources can actively work to support their PTSD-afflicted staff in three key ways, says Dr. Croft. Keep in mind that PTSD status is confidential information not available to employers. Dr. Croft advises Human Resources personnel to be aware of the signs and to develop plans to mitigate potential impacts.  

Engage the employee: After a potential PTSD incident, meet with the employee and assess what help they are willing to accept. Because it may not be possible to talk about  PTSD directly, human resources professionals should take care in explaining the options. Employee assistance programs (EAP) can help, but be sure that the program has resources for PTSD, as many EAP offerings do not.

Establish mentor programs: Some sufferers will prefer talking with someone with whom they can better relate. If you have former military personnel on your staff, you might recruit them to serve as mentors for newer employees. For those companies for which this is not an option, consider online communities like MakeTheConnection.net.

Drive proactive education: Rather than wait to perform damage control after an incident, prepare your employees for potential incidents with training on PTSD. Make sure they know how to recognize the symptoms and have plans for dealing with incidents. Dr. Croft's own website, MyBacktotheWall.com, is one option as is the Veteran's Administrations PTSD site.

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