New guidelines to help combat PTSD

A NEW set of post-traumatic stress disorder guidelines is available for health professionals treating volunteer firefighters and other emergency services workers who have the disorder.

The Black Dog Institute says 10% of Australia's 80,000 police, fire and ambulance workers have PTSD but there were no consistent diagnosis or treatment guidelines available until now.

UNSW Workplace Mental Health senior lecturer Sam Harvey helped create the guidelines with other Australian clinicians and researchers.

The Black Dog Institute research fellow said emergency service workers were at high risk of PTSD, so clear evidence-based protocols for identifying and managing the disorder were vital to their health and wellbeing.

Dr Harvey said people with PTSD could also have depression, anxiety and substance use.

He said managing PTSD in emergency service workers was "especially challenging".

"Emergency workers fill a hugely important role in our society, but unfortunately the nature of their job means they are regularly exposed to different types of trauma - from witnessing distressing events to having their own lives in significant danger," the psychiatrist said.

"The cumulative nature of their trauma exposure, and the different coping mechanisms emergency workers use, mean PTSD ... can be difficult to identify and differentiate from other mental illnesses, especially for clinicians who are not specialists in the field.

"These problems can be compounded by the stigma associated with mental illness, meaning some emergency service workers may be reluctant to come forward and ask for help."

The guidelines are backed by the Royal Australian and NZ College of Psychiatrists.

If you or someone you know needs support please phone Lifeline on 131114.

- APN NEWSDESK



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