Excel as a High-Performing Agency

Ability at Work – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder awareness

Graphic: A tree with a trunk made out of a hand, leaves made out of multicolor hands

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Through our FY 2020 Ability at Work campaign, varied ways of engaging, and strong leadership support, we seek to inspire a service-wide Count Me In! attitude about pursuing more awareness, and further supporting and promoting workplace mental health. We’ll further discover how common it is, among employees, to have experienced or be recovering from mental injury or illness such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We’ll learn from colleagues telling their stories about coping, treatment and recovery. We’ll seek to change our perspective, dispel stigmas and strengthen our resolve in showing colleagues who are struggling, that we are an organizational culture which, not only values each other’s abilities and accommodates, but also cares about each other’s mental health.

Awareness: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can be anyone!  
It’s not just a military thing! PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury are among many mental illnesses/psychological health injuries any may experience. Many of us have experienced and live with symptoms resulting from trauma happening in our lives, such as physical, psychological or sexual abuse during childhood, physical or sexual assault, witnessing or experiencing life-threatening events such as car accidents, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, wildland fires, or prolonged exposure to trauma such as that experienced by first responders – including firefighters/wildland firefighters.  Though PTSD is invisible, more than 8 million American Adults (age 18+) have experienced PTSD: 7-8% will experience PTSD in our lifetime, while 3.6% of Adults have experienced PTSD in the past year. One in 5 adults, and one in 10 employees (10%) at any one time, will experience mental health conditions/disabilities/illness.

Awareness: Like physical health injuries, PTSD can be treated & most do recover
Like a physical injury, PTSD can be treated, and most people can recover from it. The average recovery from symptoms requires about 36 months for most receiving treatment. Without treatment, recovery from symptoms averages 64 months. What treatment works best for any one individual varies. Current effective ones include Exposure Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy and various PTSD medications.

Accommodation: Sometimes seeded, sometimes not
There are many individuals daily living and working with PTSD symptoms that have not needed reasonable accommodations, and many others who only need a few accommodations. The Job Accommodation Network’s AskJAN provides an excellent list of Accommodation Ideas for PTSD by Limitations and Work-related Function.

Count Me In! for supporting and promoting Workplace Mental Health Awareness
Concerns about stigmatization lead PTSD or other types mental illness or injury to be among the most invisible of all disability types. We can’t see it, rarely report it (about 10% experience it yet only 0.46% of us report it), and too often avoid acknowledging it when we are experiencing symptoms, seeking treatment or, when needed, requesting reasonable accommodation. As we gear up our FY 2020 Ability at Work campaign, please join in also saying Count Me In! to strengthening our workplace mental health by taking advantage of the resources and engagement opportunities we’ll be posting on our Special Emphasis Program Website. For now, take a few minutes to view Oriana Saiz, a colleague and a disabled veteran, as she shares with us about her work and coping with PTSD.

Forest Service leaders are encouraged to jump start your work team’s awareness about PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury, by devoting 6 minutes at each of your next four staff meetings, to view four YouTube clips from CAP Innovation Day's - Dispelling TBI and PTSD Myths.