The following referenced article was submitted by ILFFPS member Danielle Fary of Homer Township FPD which became the subject matter for this current posting. Thanks, Dee.
In the recent online article Dropping the ‘D’ in PTSD is becoming the norm in Washington (2015, June 30), Washington Post columnist Colby Itkowitz related how politicians and veteran’s advocates are changing terminology when referring to post-traumatic stress disorder, in the hope of reducing the stigma attached to this social anxiety disorder. Itkowitz noted that during a recent speaking engagement, former President George W. Bush said that from now on he would drop the word disorder and only refer to PTSD as “Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS)”. Likewise, when President Obama hosted a White House gathering for veterans, he never used the word disorder. Congress also seems to be taking up this new cause.
Itkowitz tells us that U.S. Representatives Peters and Heitkamp have each submitted bills to change the month of June to Post-Traumatic Stress Awareness Month. Peters was quoted as saying that veterans would be more likely to use behavioral health services available to them as long as there was no negative stigma that the word “disorder” attaches to this diagnosis (2015, June 30). I feel that this is a monumental step in the right direction with regard to how those with post-traumatic stress are viewed by this country . . . but- what’s next?
All too often we see subject matter such as this become the latest buzz word or sound bite, and then it ends up on the proverbial cutting room floor of the legislature or media. Obviously this article refers to military veterans, but can easily be extended to first responders such as ourselves. I love the fact that our political leaders have our veteran’s best interests at heart. However, instead of just making a terminology shift, why not make behavioral health a part of the national conversation (with legislation, more program funding, etc.). The most recent IAFF sponsored Affiliate Leadership Training Summit opened the door to this arena.
This year’s summit, which was held in Anaheim, California (January 27th-29th), included a roundtable discussion (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the Fire Service) that was streamed live to all members via the internet. I watched this 2 hour discussion whose panel included a psychologist, first-line supervisors, and chief officers, each of whom provided his or her own unique perspective on this subject matter.
I logged off from this event and took comfort in the fact that the IAFF is giving life to this very important topic. I encourage all to visit the IAFF website and commit a couple hours of your time to watch the recorded video. While a national conversation has been started, we as peer supporters must continue to take up this call to action (at the local level) by remaining committed to the mission of the ILFFPS. Josh recently informed us that our organization is getting attention from both the national and international firefighting community, which is a testament to the tireless efforts of all involved. Given all this, what’s next?
I believe that the stronger our organization grows, the more we will be viewed as a great resource for behavioral health issues in the fire service. Collectively as a group there are hundreds of years of service with connections that everyone has made along the way. Use these connections to get your foot in the door to spread our message to fire academies, EMS programs, and IFSI/NIPTSA classes, to name a few. If you have any area of expertise (or know someone who does) that could help move our mission forward (such as funding for behavioral health education/services), please contact your peer coordinator and offer these services.
Politicians are making a shift in terms, but will they support our call to action (first responders and ve
terans alike)? I believe the more great work we continue to do will pay off with the opportunity to receive their much needed support. The path to enlightenment is theirs for the taking, and it is our time in the here and now to lead the way. Until next time . . .
Be well and stay safe,
Itkowitz, C. (2015, June 30). Dropping the ‘D’ in PTSD is becoming the norm in Washington. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2015/06/30/dropping-the-d-in-ptsd-is-becoming-the-norm/