PTSD diagnosis guidelines developed for first responders

The guidelines are specific to first responders to better diagnose and treat post-traumatic stress disorder

SYDNEY, Australia — National guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder in firefighters, paramedics and police officers have been developed by a group of Australian physicians.

The guidelines aim at better treating PTSD in emergency responders, reported.

About 10 percent of current police, fire and ambulance officers have PTSD, the guidelines’ lead author, Dr. Sam Harvey, said.

"Sometimes that can be a trauma directed at them, such as in a case where a police officer is attacked by someone," Dr. Harvey said. "But other times — and perhaps more common — it is just them witnessing a traumatic event."

Harvey said repetitive exposure can cause responders to develop PTSD symptoms. The traumatic incidents will then re-manifest themselves through flashbacks and nightmares.

The responders will get stuck into a "fight or flight moment" that will make them jumpy, unable to sleep and relax, Dr. Harvey said.

The guidelines are targeted specifically to emergency responders, their symptoms and treatments, to find the best ways to transition them back to work.

The problem, according to Dr. Harvey, is the stigma associated to mental illness, which causes emergency responders to be unwilling to ask for help.

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