PTSD Awareness Month: 5 Ways Employers Can Be More Trauma-Informed
PTSD is estimated to affect about 1 in every three people who have a traumatic experience. Some people will come through a crisis without ill effects on their mental wellbeing, and others will experience severe distress that they will meet the clinical criteria. We look at the role employers can play in supporting employees with PTSD.
The way organizations support people during periods of trauma is uniquely powerful, and the ramifications are long-lasting. June is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month and is a good time to review employee awareness surrounding issues related to PTSD, reduce the stigma associated with PTSD, and help ensure that those suffering from invisible wounds receive the support they need.
Psychological trauma brought on by the pandemic is affecting many people right now. While these symptoms may not be presenting right now, delayed symptoms can manifest themselves over time and bring about problems in the future. This means that people within your workplace may be at different stages of coping with trauma. As the crisis evolves, the traumatic experience may be yet to come for many.
In the UK, Psychiatrists fear nearly a quarter of a million individuals may need treatment for post-traumatic stress linked to the coronavirus pandemic over the next two years. Other examples of trauma can come from many events in life, including the sudden death of a colleague, family member or friend, an accident or a natural disaster.
What triggers symptoms of PTSD can vary significantly from person to person. PTSD can leave you feeling anxious, edgy, nervous, irritable, and scared if triggered at work. It can make sleeping difficult at night, causing tiredness at work. It may become harder to remember details, complete projects, manage time, or even relate to others. Other symptoms can include chronic anxiety, hyper-reactivity, exhaustion, depression, emotional numbing, self-isolation, sleep difficulties, lack of focus, negativity, avoidance of work, intrusive thoughts, self-blame, and blaming others.
Aside from the devastating human cost, these symptoms also affect a business’ bottom line, reducing productivity, extended absences and burnout from employees who could be picking up an extra workload.
Many organisations are missing a consistent trauma-informed and clinically led response to a mental health crisis delivered by mental health professionals.
Below, our clinicians have drawn from their experiences and outlined five ways employers and business owners can be more ‘trauma-informed’:
Create an open and supportive culture
Organisations that lead with open discussions from the executive level show employees throughout the organisation they are in a safe environment to do the same. More businesses are creating cultures where mental health is openly discussed, and conversations about mental health are less stigmatised.
Providing and regularly signposting mental health support
Encourage seeking mental health support by regularly referring to the resources available for employee wellbeing. This may involve reminding people of who the Mental Health First aiders are, offering mental health modules to employees, and offering therapy services as part of the organisation’s employee benefits package.
Increasing mental health literacy in line managers
Research has shown that survivors do not want their organisation to address the causes of trauma but instead want them to empathise, talk confidently, actively listen and create the space to receive appropriate support based on individual needs. Empowering line managers to know the appropriate ways to talk about and spot early warning signs of PTSD can all be achieved through mental health training.
Give people reassurance and control about their return to the workplace
The anxiety of returning to the office could trigger mental health issues for those with office jobs. Where possible, give people control over the decision of when and how to return. For those returning to the office, reassure them with plenty of clear information on the organisation’s new protocols.
Begin an ongoing conversation
Discuss with employees how best you can support them to do their work and ensure this is an ongoing conversation. It is important to recognise that the support will not be the same for everyone. For example, some people find it more challenging to be in social situations after a traumatic event, while others seek comfort in surrounding themselves with people.
When you might need extra support from mental health experts
The important thing to remember is that traumatic stress symptoms are a normal human reaction to any crisis.
But employers can play a critical role in helping employees feel supported at work. With Onebright’s mental health training, line managers have that extra confidence knowing they can spot the signs and symptoms, communicate with employees and help them access appropriate support. Please enquire about our mental health training by filling out the contact form below.