Not too very long ago, none but a few even knew what PTSD stands for. The acronym has found it's way into the public conscientiousness, but is still poorly understood.
PTSD is the medical/psychological term that is used to categorize symptoms in a person who has experienced a traumatic event which has evoked acute symptoms. The event can be a single exposure in which those involved would normally react with intense emotion, even to the point of panic. It can also be delayed in response to a single event as well as cumulative and comprising many events.
PTSD symptoms are generally classified as follows: severe anxiety, avoidance behavior, severe depression, episodes of decompensation, erratic or uncharacteristic behavior, isolation, self-destructive behavior, and self-medication through substance abuse. A sensitization to stress may also be present. By that, I mean that the person's ability to handle normally stressful events is lost.
Acute PTSD must be identified and treated aggressively. Suicidal ideations must be taken seriously.
PTSD is most often associated with two groups of people; military personnel returning from war, and; civilians exposed to traumatizing events.
Emergency responders, and specifically, paramedics are especially at risk for PTSD. No pro-active, comprehensive framework exists to educate and treat medics.
Medics must develop the ability to turn off their emotions when necessary to be able to function at very high performance levels. Normal reactions, such as panic, fear, revulsion, and anger must be suppressed in order to intervene in every emergency. The same incident will affect different medics in different ways and to different degrees.
Every traumatic incident is fused into each medic's mind like a branding iron. Vivid images are suddenly brought to mind when even the slightest association is made. These are called triggers and they can be powerful enough to paralyze a medic. This becomes immediately problematic when it happens on the job.
PTSD treatment must include, as tolerated, the medic to go back and relive the traumatic event while being coached to release the strong emotions that were suppressed with the goal of achieving closure about the incident.
A nurturing environment must be maintained in the medic's workplace. There must be someone that the medic can go to, as soon as possible, and say. "That call really bothered me. Can we talk?" Coworkers as well as supervisors must be educated and shown how to help a medic who may be suffering from PTSD.