Ok by this point you may have figured something is up with you. Perhaps you suspect PTSD, perhaps not. But in either case, the ice is starting to break under your feet, and you’ve got to figure something out, and fast. So what do you do? What are the steps that you need to follow to safely get to shore? What if you’ve already fallen through the ice and need help getting out? Whatever the case may be, I’ll tell you what you need to do to get help.
For the propose of this post I will talk more about the process, some of the hard facts on the steps you need to take to protect yourself. If you were anything like I was, you don’t know which way to turn; where to start. The process’s self can be an overwhelming feeling and add extra stress that you certainly don’t need. But you need as many people on your side as possible. This post will provide the general direction you need to take. Understand, however, that each department may have their policies and procedures.
SO, where to begin?!?!? To start find someone within your department you feel you can speak to? If so, this may be an excellent first step. For me, I felt I didn’t have the support of our fire department’s management team. Whether or not this was the case is irrelevant, but it is how I felt. As a result, I went straight to the Human Resources Dept. and spoke directly to the head of Wellness and Health and Safety. (To avoid any redundancy here, see ‘Only Soldiers get PTSD’) I found a support network I was not expecting. In my opinion, Catherine, my point of contact, was incredible. She wouldn’t accept my claims of not being able to do my job anymore and refused to let me walk away from a career I worked so hard to get. PSTD was becoming more prevalent in emergency services, and new legislation provided access to help that didn’t exist in the past. One major hurdle existed, though; no one had ever navigated through this process yet. I was the first one, and together we would figure it out.
The ultimate goal is to get help. And the first step in doing so is to obtain a diagnosis. If the problems I’m having are in fact PTSD, it could now qualify as a WSIB claim. And if this is the case, specific resources and financial support could be available.
Start with your family physician; they can often point you in the right direction. As you know, this didn’t go so well for me. If that is your experience also, don’t give up. Another excellent resource is your company Employee Assistance Program. Most organizations have some form of an EAP service that can help also. An EAP normally provides therapy and counseling services, and while these services can be extremely beneficial, it’s not typically used for the treatment of PTSD. I look at EAP services as more short-term help, you know, like getting you through a difficult time as a divorce for example. EAP’s can also provide excellent resources.
found my psychologist Dr. Storrie through my EAP. But remember, you are gathering an army, and in this battle, you will need as much help as you can get. Keep in mind, though; EAP councilors usually don’t have the authority to diagnosis mental disorders such as PTSD. And an official diagnosis is something you need if you are considering putting in a WSIB claim. Psychiatrists and psychologists CAN provide diagnosis, however. You need a referral from a medical doctor to see a psychiatrist, but you DON’T need a medical referral for a psychologist. A psychologist has the authority to both diagnose and treat PTSD. Although most psychologists are experts in their field, try to look for someone with specific experience in PTSD in emergency responders.
Remember, psychologist fees are not typically covered by public health insurance so find out if you have any assistance through your company benefits plan. You may be out-of- pocket initially for some psychologist fees as I was but remember; if you are diagnosed with PTSD and file a claim through WSIB you will be able to submit those expenses for reimbursement.
And finally, the psychologist you choose needs to be a WSIB provider; this is very important. Many practices will NOT have anything to do with the WSIB process, and some won’t even take you on as a client. I found this out first hand when I began my search for a psychologist. The WSIB process can be very complicated, and you need a doctor that can take care of that for you. And finally, make sure you find a psychologist that is a good fit. A good fit is essential to your recovery, and I say recovery because PSTD can be cured.
And finally, stay on top of your paperwork. Unfortunately, this is an important part of the process. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if needed, but make this one of your top priorities. Think about it; they need they will leave you alone. Understanding the paperwork is an essential part of your recovery. You can’t concentrate on getting better when Human Resources or Fire Dept. management is breathing down your neck regarding some trivial administrative form. Remember, it’s not personal, and everyone has to do it.
Sounds like a lot right, it’s not, don’t sweat it. To summarize; find yourself a psychologist that is a WSIB provider (if planning on making a claim), keep your employer in the loop, stay on top of your paperwork, and utilize your EAP. Once you get all of that initial stuff taken care of you can focus exclusively on your recovery.
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