First responders trained how to deal with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Mark Jones/MDN
Kelli Sears, of the Division of Emergency Medical Systems at the North Dakota Department of Health, speaks on first responders dealing with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Saturday at the 2017 Northwest Region EMS Conference at the Grand Hotel in Minot.

Mark Jones/MDN Kelli Sears, of the Division of Emergency Medical Systems at the North Dakota Department of Health, speaks on first responders dealing with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Saturday at the 2017 Northwest Region EMS Conference at the Grand Hotel in Minot.

Have you ever wondered how EMS and other first responders cope with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder?

That was one of several topics discussed Saturday at the 2017 Northwest Region EMS Conference at the Grand Hotel in Minot.

Kelli Sears, of the Division of Emergency Medical Systems at the North Dakota Department of Health, spoke for an hour to nearly 100 first responders from around the region.

“First responders are considered to be at greater risk for Acute Stress Disorder than most other occupations,” Sears told the crowd.

Sears says that ASP is usually diagnosed within a month following an event. If systems last longer than a month, she says it is important for that individual to be checked out for PTSD.

According to statistics provided by Sears, Canada has already had three first responders commit suicide in 2017 related to PTSD. Forty-eight first responders committed suicide in 2016 and 51 others took their own lives in 2015.

Of all first responders, Sears specifically says paramedics are at the greatest danger.

“Twenty-two percent of all paramedics will experience PTSD,” she told the crowd. “Paramedics have the highest rate of PTSD of all first responders.”

She says 12.7 paramedics per 100,000 individuals experience PTSD. That number is more than doubled compared to non-first responders. Five individuals, who are non-first responders, will experience PTSD per 100,000 individuals.

Sears says symptoms to PTSD will usually start within three months of an event, but may not develop until years later if an individual has multiple experiences.

Sears says there are a number of steps a person can take to overcome PTSD.

“Follow your treatment plan,” she said. “Learn about PTSD and take care of yourself.”

The class on PTSD was one of 12 held Saturday. Other courses included: responding to pipeline emergencies, drilling rig safety and first responder response and protocol to workplace violence.

The two-day conference will wrap up today with six more classes, including one on emergencies with babies, and handling difficult patients.

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