PTSD In First Responders: The First 4 Steps To Take

Hey guys!  This is a guest post from Tatyanna of A Pop of Life on helping the one you love cope with the trauma they encounter as a first responder.  This is the first of hopefully several posts on the subject, because it’s an important one to address.  If you’re currently in this situation, I hope this helps you!

There is a call of duty that drives the bold and brave to sign up to become first responders. The job requires a dedication to the welfare and safety of members within the community. Individual needs are essentially put on the back burner. This bit of courage sometimes can result in unexpected consequences.  Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can present itself in the lives of first responders and their families long after the job has finished.

I’m a wife to a career soldier. How does this differ from being a wife to, let’s say, a banker, a businessman, or even a teacher? It means the possibility of post-traumatic stress is very real and probable in my husband’s line of work.  He has numerous tours under his belt which increase the likeliness of PTSD becoming a part of our lives. I’ve noticed a good deal of people try to shy away from the topic or even feel embarrassed to admit that it has become an issue within their family. This shouldn’t be the case.

 I wanted this article to ensure that spouses of first responders are well prepared in the event that your spouse starts to suffer from PTSD. Helping your spouse deal with this condition is no different than being supportive during a physical disability or an emotional crisis. Our responsibilities as wives are to help our spouse during trying times. This responsibility becomes more important to those sacrificing their well-being at the front lines for the sake of others. Keep reading for ways to support your husband if he has PTSD.

  1. Compassion & Understanding

This first step should be the easiest. It requires that you simply be there for your husband. Understand that this is a difficult time and your compassion is crucial to recovery. How can you make him feel understood?

This can be accomplished in a variety of ways. As hard as it may be, try to put yourself in his shoes. Think about what action will let your husband know that he is not alone. Maybe you could give him an extra hug a day. Simply ask him how he is holding up. I know you’re probably thinking “that’s far from rocket science.” But, I promise you this goes a long way in reminding your husband that he has a support system. Feel free to modify this step to your personalities and marriage.

  1. Reintegration

Reintegration refers to familiarizing your spouse with how life was prior to their introduction to PTSD. If your spouse is no longer doing the job that triggered PTSD, this will be a significant step. Was your husband a major decision maker before his job? Make sure to include his input in family decisions. Did your husband take care of fixing things around the house? Was he responsible for getting the kids to school in the morning? However your life together was prior; provide a sense of familiarity for your husband during this time.

There are a variety of ways that PTSD can display its symptoms. Your spouse can experience traumatic flashbacks, avoidance, emotional numbness, and more. If your spouse is still on the job, it’s crucial to pinpoint which symptom your spouse suffers from. This will provide the most success to implementing reintegration. Traumatic flashbacks can be especially problematic on the job. You don’t want your spouse to experience a flashback that interferes with their work performance. Those suffering from flashbacks should take a break from the “dangerous” aspects of their job until PTSD is under control. For any wife with a spouse on the job suffering from PTSD, I’d suggest you remind your partner to:

  • Take it easy. There’s no need to pretend to be perfectly fine. Gradually, take on more and more of the job’s duties pending PTSD is being addressed and treated successfully.
  • Have a support system. Whether it’s a partner, boss, or co-worker, your spouse should inform someone on the job that can look out for their wellbeing. It’s helpful to have someone that can make sure their PTSD doesn’t cause any bad decisions on the job.

 

  1. Don’t obsess over your spouse’s PTSD

You don’t want your husband to feel like a freak. Yes. He may be having a difficult time adjusting at the moment. But, you don’t want him to feel as if there is something wrong with him. His line of work increases the probability of PTSD. It’s a hazard of his job. It doesn’t have to be addressed in every conversation, every day, and all the time. Take things one day at a time. Address the presence of PTSD in your lives as necessary.

  1. Don’t make light of the condition

On the other hand, you don’t want to downplay the severity of the condition. PTSD isn’t something as simple as he may be moody sometimes. You have to learn his triggers and create an environment that he can feel safe in to deal with everything. This is especially true if there are kids in the picture. Protect everyone’s safety by tackling this head on and learning what’s necessary to reduce any friction in your lives.

 

Any mental or physical condition can be an obstacle to overcome. If both of you put in time and effort to tackle PTSD, this will no doubt make your marriage stronger and strengthen your bond.

More resources:

I Wish I Could Forget The Things My Eyes Have Seen

The Dark Side Project – Facebook page

Behind the Shield – blog and podcast

It's great to see this finally being addressed - first responders get PTSD too, not just the military!

 

Tatyanna is an army wife and stay-at-home mom that has a flair for fashion and finance. Her days are usually spent with her infant son and building her at-home business. It’s become a passion of hers to empower women to excel in every aspect of their lives.

You can follow her on her blog, A Pop of Life, or on Instagram at @apopoflife.

About The Author

Leah

I’m a twenty-something LEO wife and stay-at-home mom to a one-year-old little boy. I enjoy writing, reading, taking my son for walks and runs in the stroller, and crafting. My goal is for Love and Blues to be a resource for first responders and their families. I write about marriage and family topics, as well as about the quirks that come with being married to a man in law enforcement, firefighting, or emergency medical services.