Original post titled “Bounce Back” in Time Magazine June 1, 2015 (subscription required).
For almost two decades, Dr. Stephen Southwick, professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, and Dr. Dennis Chaney, Dean at Ichan School of Medicine, have been studying what makes some people “bounce back” faster than others after a traumatic or stressful experience. Their main conclusion is that having a set of learned skills, not a disposition or personality type, helps people thrive during and after hard times.
Some tips to help strengthen your resiliency are:
- develop a core of set beliefs that nothing can shake,
- try to find meaning in whatever stressful or traumatic thing has happened,
- try to maintain a positive outlook, and
- take cues from someone who is especially resilient.
Other helpful tips are to attempt to face your fears instead of running from them, and remember not to beat yourself up over or dwell on the past.
While all of these tips can help strengthen your ability to bounce back during a particularly tough time, finding the one that works for you is the key to being able to bend rather than break. Whether that is finding an exercise plan that works with your life style (exercise helps the development of new neurons which are damaged by stress according to Southwick) or facing your fears for the first time, there are several ways to strengthen your mind to be able to cope better with stressful events.
Read more about training the brain to be more resilient in the June 2015 issue of Time magazine.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder that can occur after a person has seen or experienced a traumatic event that involved the threat of injury or death. In civil war battles a soldier may be sitting next to his best friend when a cannonball takes off his friend’s head. The horror of such events put some soldiers out of action. Similarly, police officers have a higher incidence of PTSD/Anxiety Disorders than the general public due to the gruesome scenes and situations that they witness in their occupation. Classic symptoms of PTSD fall into three main categories: (1) reliving the event (such as nightmares and flashbacks); (2) avoidance (including feeling detached, numb, and avoiding things that remind them of the event); and (3) arousal (including difficulty concentrating, startling easily, and difficulty falling asleep).
Some of the police officers who responded to the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut are suffering from PTSD, calling it the worst crime scene they ever walked into. They are suffering from severe emotional distress and shock and have been unable to return to work due to the trauma they witnessed. Unfortunately, PTSD is not covered by workers’ compensation in Connecticut. Therefore they have been forced to use vacation and sick time to cope with the situation.
Our law firm has represented multiple police officers who have developed PTSD as a result of the gruesome scenes and situations they have been involved in at work. Fortunately, PTSD may qualify as an occupational disease under North Carolina workers’ compensation law. Hopefully the Connecticut legislature will amend their statutes in light of the school shootings to help these police officers get medical care and get back to work as quickly as possible.
PTSD can be caused by traumatic events that happen anywhere - at war or in the workplace.
Last week Margaret Anderson, a Park Ranger at Mount Ranier National Park, was killed by an Iraq war veteran who may have been suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Her tragic death reminded me of several workers I have represented who had this condition after experiencing and/or witnessing horrific trauma in the workplace.
One was a 20 year employee of a public gas company who was heroically trying to fix a gas leak in a neighborhood when the gas line exploded and burned off most of his face. He healed but has flashbacks of the explosion, nightmares, depression and is constantly irritable. Before this event he was a great worker, a good family man and had a good sense of humor. He hasn’t been the same since.
Adjusters, employers, co-workers, attorneys and family members should understand that PTSD is a serious condition that needs immediate medical attention and that the failue to recognize and treat the condition can lead to tragic consequences.
Another client was on an assembly line in Raleigh, N.C. when an explosion sent a ball of fire racing through the plant. The ceiling caved in and a worker right next to her was crushed to death. Fortunately, because of workers’ compensation, these injured workers got timely medical and psychiatric care, but what about those workers who don’t get adequate and quick treatment? Continue reading