I want to cringe every time I see a TV series or a movie that features a crazed, former military member brandishing a gun, running with simulated voices in his or her head, and ominous music of impending doom – all due to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
I applaud storytellers for bringing mental health issues to light and for attempting to tell these often-silent stories. Yet what is often lost in the sensationalism of a highly trained person with a gun, is the humanity and seriousness of the situation.
The US Department of Defense, National Center for PTSD reports that issues of PTSD vary. For veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom between 11%-20% suffer. For the Gulf War, Desert storm the center reports 12%. For the Vietnam War the numbers are 15%. These numbers cover only those who have been diagnosed; the estimates for actual individuals coping with PTSD are thought to be even higher.
These numbers are important because if you live and work in the Washington, DC region, or any area of the country with a large military population, you interact with people who may be suffering or who have suffered from PTSD.
In my role as a leadership development trainer and executive coach, I work with large populations of both active duty and retired service members. They are some of the most highly trained technical people and skilled managers in the workforce. When these people transition from active duty and enter the workforce, they can and do bring real value to the companies fortunate enough to snap them up.
Please don’t avoid anyone you know with PTSD or pass them over for job or promotions because they may have issues. Don’t be afraid of them or not trust them. After all, these brave men and women have given their all to protect us. Instead, learn to manage PTSD in the workforce, whether you are a manager or co-worker.
Coping with PTSD in the workplace
- Create a safe place to ask questions and work together
- Bring in a trained facilitator/consultant to work with both management and veterans to better understand issues and then develop solutions
- Develop written procedures, meeting notes, and training manuals so employees and can refer back if they missed something at a session or need additional refreshers
- Have published calendars for team tasks so individuals can refer to these privately
- Provide access to alternate/softer lighting in work spaces
- Initiate organization-wide strategies for managing stress
- Set aside money for additional training for new members
- Provide disability training to all team members