Post-traumatic stress disorder can come from workplace

A logger sees a fellow worker crushed to death. A store clerk is tied up and robbed at gunpoint. A truck driver causes a horrific fatal crash. A worker is assaulted or raped by a co-worker.


KELOWNA, B.C. — A logger sees a fellow worker crushed to death.

A store clerk is tied up and robbed at gunpoint.

A truck driver causes a horrific fatal crash.

A worker is assaulted or raped by a co-worker.

An employee finds their boss or fellow employee murdered or dead from suicide.

All these scary scenarios are workplace traumas that can in turn become post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Eighty per cent of people at some point in their life, either at work or outside of work, will have a traumatic experience,” says psychologist Dr. Gordon Davidson.

“I’m not talking about the loss of a job or divorce, but a traumatic event like being the victim of or witnessing closely violence, robbery, murder, suicide, assault or a terrible accident.”

The Vernon, B.C., psychologist recently held seminars in Vernon and Kelowna to promote his new traumatic stress recovery program.

“Most people, whether it’s with some professional help or not, will recover from a trauma and be able to return to work and normal life,” said Davidson.

“But 15 per cent will have post-traumatic stress disorder and develop phobias about returning to the workplace, leaving the house or resuming normal life. There can also be flashbacks, nightmares, emotional numbness, insomnia and irritability.”

The psychologist said there is some truth to the old-school mantra of after a fall get right back on the horse.

“People shouldn’t capitulate to fears,” he said.

“At some point they do have to get out there and carry on.”

However, there can and should be lots of help along the way.

For instance, Davidson has done many debriefings in workplaces right after a trauma.

He helps workers understand why they are feeling what they feel, how to overcome fear and how to return to work and a normal life.

For the most part, with some professional help and people’s natural resiliency, workers can confront their fears, manage their emotions and carry on.

For those who can’t get past the trauma within three months, Davidson has specialized one-on-one return to work programs that are effective.

He’s also setting up a post-traumatic stress disorder support group to help people realize they aren’t alone and that recovery is possible.

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