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Take a moment, if you will, to think back to the last time you had to cope with stress in the workplace. It’s highly likely that you felt anxious or maybe even afraid at the time. Equally likely, though, is that you dealt with these emotions and resolved the situation, moved on, and became wiser from the experience.
Now, take another moment to imagine just how hard it would be to be burdened by this fear and stress for weeks, months, and even years. Unfortunately, many who have seen or been involved in traumatic situations and events cannot manage stress the way that most people can. For some, the events they experience are so harrowing that memories become seared into their minds for the rest of their lives.
This condition is known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. It’s possible that someone on your team could be fighting through a private battle that you are unaware of with this often-debilitating condition. For them, the workplace can sometimes be a very hostile and confusing environment, full of small, seemingly innocuous interactions that could trigger their PTSD.
Empathy and compassion are vital when helping these employees become and remain valuable members of your team. PTSD is often associated with military veterans who have witnessed the extreme horrors of combat. However, anyone exposed to a traumatic event can have PTSD. For example, people who have dealt with an injury, disaster, accident, or sexual or physical abuse can experience PTSD. Some people may suffer from symptoms for weeks or months, while others may suffer for years or even permanently. In this article, you will learn about what PTSD is and how you can support your team members with PTSD.
What is PTSD?
PTSD is a serious condition that often occurs after a person has witnessed or experienced an extremely traumatic event. In fact, according to the National Center for PTSD, around six percent of the US population will suffer from it at one point in their lifetime.
Right now, PTSD affects roughly 5.2 million American adults every year. It is essential to note the distinction between PTSD and normal responses to trauma. Many people experience some form of trauma in their lives, often more than once. However, those who develop PTSD can suffer from depression, severe distress, and even anxiety, lasting from months to several years. These symptoms can appear immediately after a trauma or take months, sometimes years, to develop.
June is National PTSD Awareness Month
With June being National PTSD Awareness Month, it is crucial to be aware of and understand this issue so you can be prepared to properly support any members of your team who may be suffering from PTSD. While many people associate PTSD with military service members, it affects many people from all backgrounds. Therefore, knowing that the events leading to PTSD can happen to anyone is crucial.
Many people in the workforce, both veterans and otherwise, are working and living with PTSD daily. As an employer or HR professional, it is critical to learn how to support and manage people living with PTSD. As a Human Resources professional, this can help you retain quality team members and increase productivity.
Understand the Symptoms and the Accommodations Needed
Understanding the symptoms of PTSD and some of the ways that you can support and accommodate team members who are dealing with these symptoms is of the utmost importance. Some of the symptoms of PTSD include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Poor memory
- Trouble with personal interactions
Some of the ways management staff can help support team members dealing with these symptoms include the following:
- Difficulty concentrating: If your team member is having trouble concentrating, try offering them an area that is free from distractions. You can also offer them music or noise-canceling headphones.
- Poor memory: Working with your team member to find what methods work best for them when keeping on track with their work. Try calendars, lists, and electronic reminders.
- Stress: Ask your team member if they require anything to manage their stress and eliminate any triggers.
- Absenteeism and lateness: Some people with PTSD often struggle to keep the same schedule as other members. Try to allow them to work with a flexible schedule that works for all parties.
- Trouble with personal interactions: Encourage your team member to leave any conversations or discussions if they begin to become triggered or find the conversation difficult.
The Bottom Line
Talk to your staff. Let them know that your organization understands that some team members may have issues like PTSD that require special treatment or accommodations and that you would like to help and support anyone who may need assistance. Talking about these issues helps break down the stigma against them and will make your team feel more comfortable reaching out for help. In turn, you will be able to increase employee trust and retain and empower quality talent who may otherwise have struggled. If your team member is comfortable with this, managers may consider letting the rest of the team know about their condition. In this case, you should also consider offering your team training on dealing with a co-worker with PTSD. All of these approaches will help you offer a more inclusive and productive work environment which will help you attract and retain your best people.