PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder is a psychological condition that many people suffer after experiencing something dangerous, violent, or emotionally disturbing. The disorder can affect the way an individual behaves, processes stress, and responds to the world around them. It can be debilitating and should be taken very seriously.
Recent California legislation has expanded worker’s compensation benefits to firefighters who develop PTSD during their service as a firefighter. The legislation requires coverage for firefighters with PTSD who require hospitalization, surgical intervention, medical treatment, disability coverage, and death benefits. The list of workers entitled to this type of PTSD coverage was expanded to include firefighters who work for Departments of State Hospitals, Developmental Services and Military, along with peace officers like security officers in the Department of Justice who sustained PTSD while performing job duties for a state hospital.
For example, let’s say that a firefighter responds to a major car accident on the freeway. There are several injured victims, including two young children. One firefighter with paramedic credentials administers CPR to a ten year old girl who is non-responsive at the scene. After working on her for several minutes, it becomes clear that she isn’t not going to be resuscitated and dies on the scene. This firefighter has a young daughter, and for months following the accident he is plagued by nightmares and is unable to sleep. Eventually, sleep deprivation puts him in the hospital. The PTSD he developed is directly related to his job as a fire fighter.
This legislation is a major step forward in demonstrating to our public safety officers that the state of California values their work, understands that it is challenging, and promises to take care of them in their time of need. Fire fighters do intense, difficult work every single day. It is understandable that some of the horrific and tragic things they see can lead to a decline in mental health. We are grateful that this new piece of legislation expands the type of coverage they are entitled to, and hope that everyone suffering from PTSD is able to secure the treatment they need.