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Yet another mass shooting targeting school children — this time one which claimed 17 lives at Florida’s Marjory
PTSD: Cure and
Stoneman Douglas High School —
has generated discourse about post-traumatic stress disorder in surviving
students, educators and first responders.
As the discussion expands, debate
will likely include broader questions.
Should PTSD be compensable for
first responders? Will employees who
witness co-workers die or get maimed
in other horrific workplace accidents be
covered? Their risk is just as great.
I want to add to the discourse on
PTSD by sharing a personal story,
and that of a workers’ comp colleague.
We both believe we benefited from
a treatment endorsed by the U.S.
Department of Veterans Affairs for its
effectiveness in treating PTSD.
The colleague, an RN, working as
an occupational nurse, tried to save a
co-worker’s life by administering CPR
for 8 minutes. She also administered
epinephrine after an allergic reaction
closed off the co-worker’s airway.
Neither worked and arriving
paramedics couldn’t save her. She
turned blue and slipped away.
Memories of seeing the dying
woman’s face and her pleas for her life
haunted my colleague. She dreamed
about not reaching the co-worker
in time. She worried excessively that
something would happen to her
children, and she wouldn’t be there.
It’s not an entirely unique story. The
Bureau of Labor Statistics counted
5,190 work-related deaths in 2016,
the third consecutive spike in annual
Co-workers surely witnessed plenty
of those tragedies. The Department of
Labor reports that “critical-incident”
witnesses may suffer from fear, guilt
and chronic anxiety among other
physical, cognitive, emotional and
Fortunately my colleague benefited
from eye movement desensitization
and reprocessing. EMDR is efficient,
because it can help ease distressful
memories after just a few sessions.
She sensed improvement after two
sessions and underwent about six.
I first benefited from EMDR
applied to treat trauma experienced as
a child. I am now better able to manage
situations that previously caused
EMDR dampens the impact of
negative emotions. A therapist guides
a patient to recall and reprocess
traumatic events while focusing on a
back and forth movement or sound.
A few months after witnessing my
wife pass away, I turned to EMDR
to help soften the jagged edges those
memories generate. They are still
unpleasant memories, but not as rough.
Some comp payers fear that paying
for such treatment could lead to a
protracted psych claim.
But helping employees who witness
workplace deaths is the right thing
to do, especially when an efficient
treatment is available, and their future
productivity and attention to safety
practices may depend on it. &
ROBERTO CENICEROS is senior editor at
Risk & Insurance® and chair of the National
Workers’ Compensation and Disability
Conference® & Expo. He can be reached at
BY ROBERTO CENICEROS