Before diving too deep into this subject, let’s start with the basics. What is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? How can it affect you?
PTSD is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event. A person may develop this disorder in response to extreme trauma that he/she has experienced, witnessed, or learned about, especially trauma that is life-threatening or causes bodily harm. A person may feel horror, fear, or helplessness because of this trauma.
How Are 911 Dispatchers Affected?
911 Dispatchers are at risk for PTSD in a similar way that police officers are. According to the Journal of Emergency Dispatch, the rate of PTSD among telecommunicators is somewhere between 18 percent and 24 percent. This percentage of individuals report enough symptoms of PTSD that they would likely receive a diagnosis if they were seen by a psychologist and were formally evaluated. Some of the biggest triggers for telecommunicators are calls dealing with kids and officer-involved shootings.
How Can This Be Managed?
High-stress jobs and repeated instances of being confronted with highly stressful events can lead to a distress disorder. Know your options, and stay informed on what you can do to lower the odds of experiencing PTSD in your Comm Center.
How can this be managed and supported from within? Self-awareness with continual education and direct debriefing from lead staff after a stressful situation occurs are great places to start. It’s also helpful to familiarize yourself with methods of relaxation, and know how to do everything you can if you or someone you work with is suffering. Take a break, create peer support groups, or just talk to someone (co-worker, friend, leaders within a call center, etc.). Of course if the PTSD is extreme and ongoing, professional treatment is the best option.