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Understanding Mental Trauma in the Workplace

Understanding Mental Trauma in the Workplace

When a person witnesses a traumatic event at work, it can result in lasting mental anguish that can seriously impact their ability to do their job. While treatment and care for physical injuries at work are common, we often don’t acknowledge the mental trauma of those who witness catastrophic events. This is why it is important for employers and employees to learn how to identify bystander trauma in the workplace so that workers can get the help they need after a traumatic event.

Facts About Mental Trauma

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), there is a workplace injury every seven seconds. The NSC also said that 9 out of 10 people in the U.S. will be exposed to a traumatic event in their lifetimes. As we discussed above, some of these events will have lasting consequences on the mental state of workers who witnessed the traumatic event. The National Safety Council estimates that the lifetime prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among Americans is 8.7%. For first responders, that rate jumps to 20%.

When it comes to workplace violence, close to 2 million workers in the U.S. report violent attacks each year. Research shows that the following factors can increase violent acts in the workplace:

  • Jobs where employees frequently work alone or in isolated areas
  • Work environments where alcohol use is encouraged
  • Occupations that require exchanging money with the public
  • Working late at night or in areas with high crime rates

Workers in the following occupations are more likely to see violence in the workplace:

  • Health care professionals
  • Customer service workers
  • Law enforcement
  • First responders
  • Delivery drivers
  • Public service workers

Crisis Intervention

The goal of crisis intervention is to address the needs of a person who has been exposed to a traumatic event. Some workers experience a psychological crisis as a response to a traumatic incident that can disrupt their mental stability and usual coping mechanisms. How the employee responds to trauma depends on how close they were to the incident, their relationship with the individuals involved, and their ability to cope with stress.

The three most common psychological reactions following a traumatic event are:

  • Eustress: This type of stress actually motivates the person to move forward
  • Distress: Although this level of stress can be excessive, most people are usually resilient to it
  • Dysfunction: This type of stress substantially impacts a person and affects their ability to work and perform regular activities

Identifying these psychological reactions among workers after a traumatic event is a crucial aspect of supporting those who may be developing PTSD.

Have you witnessed a traumatic event at work? If so, get in touch with our attorneys at Fitzpatrick Santos Sousa Perugini P.C. to find out if you are eligible for workers’ compensation. Call (203) 583-8299 to schedule your case consultation today.