Welcome back! Everyone has PTSD!
March 17, 2020 6:15 AM   Subscribe

Do you know of any good resources for dealing with PTSD in the workplace? It seems likely that if/when working goes back to normal after COVID-19, there'll be a higher trauma load in the workforce than there usually is, and I'd like to do some reading & thinking now to help my organisation to prepare for this possibility.

Personally I have a higher-than-average awareness of PTSD-related stuff as I have C-PTSD from childhood abuse. My company is generally good with mental health, but by "mental health" they really mean mild-to-moderate anxiety or depression, ideally your first bout as an adult - they're not as knowledgeable or responsive when it comes to more severe, chronic or complex conditions. When I attempted to get some additional PTSD support/accommodations a few years ago, both my company and our occupational health provider struggled to come up with anything useful and didn't seem to understand how the symptom presentation was different to, say, depression.

It now seems very likely that we're going to see an upswing in PTSD symptoms following the coronavirus outbreak, including some people for whom this is the only or the most significant traumatic thing they've lived through. I suspect that my company will want to be supportive of staff in this position, but based on my experiences I'm not confident that they're currently equipped to do a good job of this and I'd like to put together some resources to help.

So, does anyone have recommendations for books, articles, training etc.? We're in the UK if that's relevant. I've done a bit of reading in this space, but it's been about individual experiences rather than group-relevant stuff or how to help others.
posted by terretu to Work & Money (3 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
This is not a very specific book recommendation, more of a potential resource for your people. If you belong to a library that has the Hoopla app as part of its digital collection, I’ve found it usually has access to New Harbinger Publication’s catalog, which contains a lot of self-guided mindfulness and therapy workbooks. I used a number of them after a traumatic work experience last year. (Happy to say, no PTSD!) COVID-19 feels eerily like the traumatic event is happening again, so I will definitely be returning to this resource.
posted by ceramicspaniel at 7:09 AM on March 17, 2020

Hi, good on you for considering the social and emotional impacts of this situation.

First, it's important to differentiate between Trauma and PTSD. Everyone will have trauma, a small minority will have PTSD. The kind of "standard" PTSD that is related to a sudden, acute stressor, rather than an ongoing situation is still more widely recognized than C-PTSD. Some people during this pandemic will experience such a stressor, and a smaller number of those people will go on to develop PTSD. That doesn't mean that the people who don't meet criteria for PTSD aren't suffering, or that it's not interfering with their life. PTSD just involves a very specific cluster of symptoms. People who meet diagnostic criteria for PTSD or C-PTSD will be more able to access disability benefits and whatnot; people with unspecified Trauma may not. This kind of disaster will likely produce symptoms that are closer to what you think of when you think of borderline personality disorder (think over and underreactivity and social/relationship problems across a wide range of situations), which is widely understood to be a response to trauma. I'm not saying everyone will suddenly be borderline, but many of those typical BPD behavior patterns are adaptive responses to trauma, and you may see similar kinds of adaptive behaviour. Luckily, some people will have had healthy, happy, childhoods and a variety of resiliency factors in their favors. But some won't.

Expect people to have difficulties with family and social functioning long after this ends. Be compassionate, and if you notice changes in behaviour, or what seem like unpleasant changes in personality, realize that they may be a reaction to stuff in the environment. Encourage a similar analysis from others when the gossip machine starts churning.

I work in healthcare. We work from the perspective that everyone has trauma, and we should treat them with care accordingly. There are six principles of trauma informed practice. They may be useful to you to keep in mind. I can answer questions about implementing them in your specific workplace if you want to memail me.

A great book is Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman. It explains the mechanics and experience of trauma really well. I also like it because it talks about things like natural disasters and terrorist attacks as well as the kind of trauma that comes from medical emergencies and individual violence - it talks about it a little bit on the community level as well as the individual level.
posted by unstrungharp at 9:04 AM on March 17, 2020 [11 favorites]

I think you are kind to want to help your colleagues, especially after you saw the company's limitations based on your own experiences. I live with PTSD and understand where you're coming from. However, unless you are a trained therapist or counselor or social worker, I'd focus on encouraging people to get that professional help, read those insightful books, etc. Perhaps you could compile a list of resources to email or send to someone in HR to distribute. (You know best based on your workplace's structures and culture.) Like you, I'm a natural helper but making sure I remember my role -- friend, colleague, etc. -- and sticking to firm boundaries is essential and best for everyone involved. Of course, it's much easier said than done, especially when you see that need and our current health care systems are so overtaxed.
posted by smorgasbord at 7:38 PM on March 25, 2020

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