Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

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Health Assured team

19 December 2019

Post-traumatic stress disorder can heavily affect a person's physical and mental state.

It’s a serious health condition which anyone can develop. And at its worst, it can bring a person’s life to a standstill.

When an employee suffers from PTSD, you are legally bound to support them. Neglecting this can lead to discrimination claims–resulting in costly penalties and business damages.

Read all about post-traumatic stress disorder, whether it’s a disability, and how to support employees suffering from it.

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a health condition which develops after going through a frightening or dangerous experience.

During a traumatic event, you might feel scared or distressed. Your body will instantly defend itself to avoid any danger.

But PTSD develops after you recollect the memory–intentionally or not. When a person is in this state, it can seriously affect their everyday life.

What causes PTSD?

When someone experiences trauma, the brain can become uncontrollably overwhelmed. The memories are placed in the 'immediate action’ part of our mind.

The most common causes for PTSD include:

  • Near-death experiences.
  • Violent attacks, physical abuse, or sexual assault.
  • Pressurised jobs, like the armed forces or emergency services.
  • Experiencing wars or national disasters.
  • Death of a close person.
  • Traumatic childbirth.
  • Serious health problems.

Developing PTSD depends on how a person internalises their trauma–or their 'resilience factor’.

What are the signs for PTSD?

It might be difficult to recognise the signs, but there are four main categories which determine PTSD:

  • Re-experience: Suffer from flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive thoughts.
  • Avoidance: Stay away from places, people, and thoughts relating to trauma.
  • Arousal and reactivity: Easily angered, stressed, or startled; which makes it difficult to perform activities.
  • Cognition and mood: Feel distorted versions of guilt or remorse, and detach oneself from surroundings.

The highest sufferers of PTSD symptoms are women, service personnel, and victims of physical assault.

People can also suffer from relating illnesses, like depression, self-harm and suicidal tendencies.

What is complex PTSD?

Complex PTSD (C-PTSD) develops when someone suffers from repeated traumatic events. These can include severe neglect, abuse, or violence.

These symptoms may be similar to PTSD. But as a medical condition, there are more complications involved. And diagnosis and treatments are proven to be even more extensive.

Is PTSD a disability in UK law?

PTSD is legally recognised as a disability–but only if their conditions account to a mental health illness.

Under the Equality Act (2010), it must have 'substantial and long-term effects on the ability to carry out day-to-day activities’.

A disability must last for at least 12 months. And their condition should make regular tasks difficult to manage, like using a computer or interacting with people.

The act also outlines a legal obligation to protect employee health and wellbeing. So, if someone with PTSD has work limitations, you need to provide reasonable work adjustments.

Firing an employee with PTSD from, in the UK, is illegal. You could be held liable for disability discrimination–resulting in legal claims and costly penalties.

How to help someone with PTSD at work

So many employees could be suffering from any level of PTSD. You have an overall legal duty to care for their welfare and safety during work.

Here's how to help someone suffering from PTSD in the workplace:

Keep open communication

Good communication is the key to managing an employee with PTSD. Through open discussions, you can uncover their specific condition and needs.

It’s especially helpful when someone with PTSD is returning to work. Remember, communication can be one of the best remedies for mental health problems.

Identify triggers

It’s important to identify PTSD triggers and stop them affecting your employee’s condition.

For example, an employee mentions they’re suffering from PTSD and workplace stress. You can offer noise-cancelling headphones or a quiet workspace. This will eliminate triggers and allow them to work productively.

Provide reasonable adjustments

Discuss which specific work adjustments will help improve your employee's performance and environment.

You can change or reduce their workload, or even offer:

And if they require it, provide employees with reasonable time off work to recover from PTSD.

Eliminate mental health stigma

It’s so important to grow a workplace environment where mental health stigma is eliminated.

Remember, employees can also develop PTSD from bullying at work. So, it’s crucial to hold zero-tolerance for harassment and discrimination.

You can do this by providing information and training to your staff. This will develop their awarenese, spot the signs, and help colleagues suffering during work.

Get expert advice on PTSD with Health Assured

If you have an employee with PTSD, you are legally bound to protect them through reasonable care and support.

Neglecting their medical needs could lead to facing legal claims–causing major impacts to your business, name, and revenue.

Health Assured provides expert advice on PTSD and trauma management. Our teams offer guidance on employee wellbeing whilst simultaneously meeting your business needs.

We also provide a 24/7 helpline, that’s open 365 days a year – helping you care for your staff all year round. Arrange a call back from an expert today on 0800 206 2532.

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