Health+Benefits

Addressing PTSD in the Workforce

Q&A with Dr. Teresa Bartlett, senior medical officer at Sedgwick
By Brianne Spellane, Sandy Laycox
Q
What is the role of employers in ensuring the mental health of their employees?
A
Employers play a key role in knowing about the energy level of their employees and ensuring they provide a safe space for workers, meaning workers know it is okay to seek help and ask for assistance when they are struggling with mental health issues.
Q
What is the cost/risk to an organization if employees’ PTSD and other behavioral health issues aren’t addressed?
A
The cost can be devastating. Depending on the issues that trigger a worker, many people today suffer from PTSD and an employer may never know because people suffer in silence.

Key Takeaway from RIMS Session: Research has shown that PTSD changes the biology of the brain, and that may not ever go away. You may not know what kind of trauma has occurred in your employees’ lives.

Q
How should employers go about addressing PTSD with an employee?
A
Making it known that there are programs available to workers and training supervisors to understand the signs that someone may be struggling is important. Not that the supervisor has to address it themselves, but they need to know where to go for help and to whom they refer the worker to in the event it is needed.

If an event just happened in the workplace, it is helpful to have crisis counselors meet with those exposed to the disruptive event. This can be in a group or one-on-one. They need to know what they are experiencing is normal and that the feelings and thoughts they are having are okay.

Key Takeaway from RIMS Session: It is also important to have clinical involvement early on. There needs to be a partnership between the employer and their preferred medical provider.

Q
Are there any tools out there that could help?
A
There are several tools including cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, re-exposure therapy and specific sessions to help the individual reengage in life.

Key Takeaway from RIMS Session: medical marijuana and MDMA (aka ecstasy) are showing promise in studies to treat people with PTSD.

Q
What is an employee benefit broker’s role in helping their clients with this issue?
A
Brokers can be very helpful in assisting employers in setting up programs before an event happens and helping them establish protocols, policies and procedures around disruptive event management. Brokers can also help employers develop a readiness plan.
Q
What trends do you see on the horizon in terms of preventing or managing workplace violence and other risks that cause PTSD?
A
The best trend that I see is that employers want to be prepared. The more prepared you are for an event the more appropriate your response when something happens. Preparation and training cannot be taken lightly. It is well worth the time and effort to have a plan in place.

Key Takeaway from RIMS Session: Early intervention is key. Incorporate job accommodations with direction from a medical provider. Show compassion. You don’t know about an employee’s past exposures.

Brianne Spellane Associate Managing Editor Read More
Sandy Laycox Editor in Chief Read More

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