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3 Signs of PTSD in the Fire Service


The first way to break down the stigma of Post Traumatic Stress in the fire service is understanding what it looks like. Studies estimate that about 20 percent of firefighters will experience symptoms at some point during their career.


According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, here are a few common signs that station crew and families should watch for:


  • Reliving the event. Memories of the traumatic event can come back at any time. You may feel the same fear and horror you did when the event took place. For example, you may have nightmares. Or you may feel like you are going through the event again; this is called a flashback. You may see, hear, or smell something that causes you to relive the event, called a trigger. News reports, seeing an accident, or hearing a car backfire are examples of triggers.

  • Avoiding situations that remind you of the event. You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event.

  • Negative changes in beliefs and feelings. The way you think about yourself and others changes because of the trauma. This symptom has many aspects, including the fact that you may not have positive or loving feelings toward other people and may stay away from relationships. You may think the world is completely dangerous, and no one can be trusted.

  • Feeling keyed up (called “hyperarousal”). You may be jittery or always alert and on the lookout for danger. You might suddenly become angry or irritable. For example, you may have a hard time sleeping or concentrating. You may be startled by a loud noise or surprise.

 

Seeking out help in times of need is the furthest thing from weakness. In a 2019 survey of patients from the IAFF Center of Excellence, 62% reported they felt the decision to seek treatment had positive impacts on how they are viewed in their departments. No one should have to suffer alone. If you or anyone in your station crew is struggling, see something or say something.


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The Verified Independent Service Providers Association (VISPA) was created to provide fire departments and other emergency response organizations with an educational resource on the care and maintenance of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).  Your PPE is your first line of defense and must provide you with sufficient protection during its service life. Our goal is to help you establish good practices to reduce the safety risks and potential health risks associated with poorly maintained, contaminated, and damaged PPE.  

 

 

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