Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a familiar condition these days, primarily associated with military personnel returning from war zones. However, in a new precedent, an appeals court in Illinois recently ruled that a fire official should receive workers’ compensation for PTSD, and many public safety officials are trying to develop a more comprehensive understanding of who is at risk.
“It’s a little scary that we had to go to court over a condition we already know exists,” said Kevin Kupietz, a fire instructor at the Roanoke Rapids (NC) Fire Department and a faculty member in the Emergency and Disaster Management program at American Military University. “PTSD first transpired in the military, then law enforcement and we’ve just started to look at it in the fire service, but we still have to make it a priority.”
The conversation around the issue may be in the early stages, but that doesn’t mean PTSD among firefighters is a new occurrence in itself. It’s more a matter of recognizing the condition where it hasn’t been identified before.
BEATING THE STIGMA: Perhaps a key reason PTSD hasn’t been talked about enough in the fire service community is the expectation many firefighters feel to fit a certain mold. Firefighters have long been held to an image of hardiness and strength. The idea of betraying this image can sometimes make it difficult for them to come forward and seek help.
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