Managing PTSD at the Workplace

73075307“In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield.” – Douglas MacArthur.

In the wake of allegations that hospitals in Phoenix delayed providing medical help to veterans, resulting in at least 20 preventable deaths, the issue of veteran rehabilitation has come to the fore. Among the ills that plague their return to the civilian job market, we will have to count Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – or PTSD – as one of the most pervasive and serious disabilities.

Understanding PTSD
As philosopher Bertrand Russell said, “War does not determine who is right – only who is left!” Inevitably, those who are left behind carry the scars of their traumatic experiences in the war, and the effects of living in close proximity with danger, destruction and death. Very few, if any, are unscathed by the experience.

There is no doubt that veterans are remarkably resourceful and strong individuals whose abilities are further enhanced by the training as well as the demands of their military service. But the travails of war present a serious challenge to a person’s mental health; resulting in what is commonly known as PSTD. Employers who take pride in their programs to hire veterans as they return to civilian life would need to be pro-active in providing a supportive environment to these prized employees – to aid in their transition to life as healthy and functioning members of a peace time community. But, when individuals suffer from PSTD, some of them may need on-going support.

Accommodating PTSD at the Workplace
An employer could offer the following accommodations to an employee suffering from PTSD, as some symptoms– like moodiness, memory problems and difficulties with concentration – may require some support to deal with them, as described below:

  • Listening to soothing music, over headphones
  • Using natural or full-spectrum lighting in the work area
  • Minimizing the interruptions/distraction from the task at hand
  • Allowing the veteran a private space or enclosure, if unwilling to be socially outgoing
  • Assigning bounded tasks which are goal-specific, and providing a written set of detailed instructions for the task assigned
  • If feasible, allowing them to work from home, at least for some of the time, or providing flexible work schedules to address the effects of sleep disturbances and/or deprivation
  • Offering longer or more frequent break times which make it possible to gain relief from stress
  • Allowing opportunities to schedule medical appointments or counseling during normal work hours
  • Allowing the veteran to bring a support animal to work
  • Assigning the veteran to a supervisor who is trained to handle the situation and can observe, instruct, mentor, train and provide support and positive feedback
  • Training the others in the workplace to treat this condition as they would any co-worker with a medical condition requiring accommodation

It is estimated that nearly 300,000 American veterans suffer from PTSD, but have problems when asked to produce documentary evidence when they seek medical care, claim disability benefits or compensation. Now the U.S. Government has initiated a Significant Event Tracker (SET) program to track the traumatic events in the lives of veterans, to help them claim benefits for injuries sustained.

Here is one quote by Dan Lipinski which could bear repetition and go on to form the motto for all those who are military friendly: On the battlefield, the military pledges to leave no soldier behind. As a nation, let it be our pledge that when they return home, we leave no veteran behind.

Note: To learn more about programs available to assist veterans in transitioning to the private sector or pursuing entrepreneurial goals, please check out the blog on the Military Online Colleges website.

Lalita Vempati

Lalita Vempati
Lalita Vempati is a marketing communications specialist at DCRWorkforce. She has extensive experience in managing operations, human capital and training and development.

Lalita Vempati

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