First Responders and ER Staff are at Risk of PTSD
Firefighters dying, caught in fire hot spots. Their buddies are left with the horror. Police officers walking into a house where a man has shot his wife, children and then himself. ER doctors and nurses trying to stop the bleeding in an accident victim rushed in by ambulance. The EMT’s have been trying to keep several of the victims alive during the ride to the hospital. A police officer stops an erratic driver and the person “goes off” on him. The driver reacts to the officer as if he were her abusive husband.
PTSD in Organizations
First responders and others who see pain, violence, the aftermath of catastrophe, or death on a regular basis, or who are the victims of these, are deeply affected. Many develop PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder ) and suffer emotional pain. Most probably don’t know that’s what’s happening to them. Most of the organizations where these people work probably don’t know why they sometimes behave in unexpected and troubling ways. Those around people with Posttraumatic Stress just react in response and the situation escalates. The organization becomes riddled with PTSD.
What Are the Symptoms of PTSD in Organizations?
Being around horror, violence and tragedy day after day accumulates in the nervous system. PTSD is actually the body’s attempt to deal with the impact of the horror and emotional pain. The first response is to ramp up—become hyper-alert, more suspicious, reacting on a hair trigger, feeling increasingly anxious about a lot of things, being afraid of moving into things that were easy before. Then: becoming easily offended, hurt or angry—at what people do or say, but also at what’s on TV or in the news. Getting into arguments more easily. When the horrors and tragedy accumulate more and more, the nervous system shifts and there’s a feeling of exhaustion, not wanting to go to a party—all those people. Finally, spacing out, difficulty concentrating and focusing, difficulty getting organized, difficulty getting things done, feeling a constant low-grade sadness. All these are signs of PTSD. All these are “normal” in organizations where the people who work there are exposed to emotional pain, horror, violence and tragedy on a regular basis.
Individual PTSD Creates Organizational PTSD
Just because it’s “normal,” doesn’t mean it’s healthy or ok for the individuals or the organizations holding all this PTSD and emotional pain. In fact, holding the effects of stress in the individual and in the organization creates cracks in the system that widen over time until the system fragments. Organizations are made up of individual people like the ocean is made up of water drops. The health of each individual is necessary to keep the organization whole. When police officers are traumatized–without having the tools to heal—from repeated exposure to violence, they either become overly suspicious and afraid of those whom they should be protecting—the public—or they become numb to the pain of others and become hard and sometimes abusive. When ER personnel are overly stressed—without the tools to move the stress out of their nervous system—by repeated exposure to tragedy, their reactions may slow, they may be prone to making mistakes they wouldn’t normally make. When nursing home staff become weighed down—without help in healing the sorrow—by the trauma of seeing grave disability and death over and over again, they may become numb to the emotional pain and physical pain of their patients.
Organizational PTSD is Curable with EFT
It is possible to move PTSD out of the nervous system and the body. One exceptionally effective method to do this is EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques). EFT is based on the principles also used by acupuncture. Through focusing precisely on the painful, tragic, violent or frightening events that create PTSD in an individual or a group while using EFT Tapping on acupuncture meridian points, EFT quickly helps to heal the symptoms of PTSD. An EFT practitioner helps a person or a group that has experienced a stressful or traumatic event go through the parts of the event that created fear or shock or pain and, simultaneously tapping on meridian points, neutralizes the event so that, what was painful or frightening, what caused anger or sadness becomes a matter-of-fact memory relieved of emotional pain. The person or group is calmed.
For more information on healing individual stress and trauma, see EFT for Stress and Trauma. For working effectively with organizational stress and trauma, see EFT with Organizations. For more information on how EFT helps individuals and groups who have experienced stress and trauma, see EFTtherapycolorado.com