Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the emergency services

Emergency services staff and volunteers are routinely exposed to distressing and traumatic incidents, as well as having demanding workload pressures. As a result, they are more at risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than the general population.

Our research shows:

  • 42% of emergency service staff and volunteers consider exposure to traumatic incidents to be a trigger of poor mental health.
  • Following the Grenfell Tower fire, PTSD-related calls to the Blue Light Infoline have more than doubled.

Here you’ll find some information about PTSD which might be useful for you if you work or volunteer in the emergency services, or if you’re a friend or family member of someone who does. Our information covers:

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a type of mental health problem which you may develop after being involved in, or witnessing, traumatic events.  Sometimes it’s not necessarily the ‘big’ traumatic incidents, but the smaller ‘everyday’ traumas that have the biggest impact.

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What are the symptoms of PTSD?

There are common symptoms of PTSD, however each person's experience of PTSD is unique to them.

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What causes PTSD?

The situations someone finds traumatic can vary from person to person. Emergency services staff and volunteers are particularly at risk of developing PTSD because of their repeated exposure to traumatic events.

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How can I support myself?

Living with PTSD can be overwhelming. We’ve got some tips on how you can help yourself cope with PTSD, including tips for coping with flashbacks.

After going through this process, I have developed my skill of identifying the warning signs. I ‘intervene’ earlier and speak to family, friends and colleagues… being able to cope better and identify the support early is the way forward. Emergency medical dispatcher, ambulance service

Employer support

Your employer may have specialist support available to help you deal with the effects of PTSD.

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Treatments for PTSD

If you experience PTSD, there are treatments available that can help you.

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How do I support a colleague with PTSD?

The support of colleagues can be really valuable for someone experiencing PTSD. Often, small everyday gestures can make all the difference.

When I’ve had problems with my mental health or wellbeing, the most helpful thing has been the team's acceptance of me. Volunteer, mountain search and rescue

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How can family and friends help?

It can be hard seeing the person you care about experiencing the symptoms of PTSD.
But there are lots of ways you can support them.

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Your stories

Five emergency services personnel share their personal experiences of PTSD.

Cassie’s story (police service)

Daniel’s story (ambulance service)

Andy's story (search and rescue)

Stuart's story (police service)

Derek's story (fire service)

I hope by sharing my story it will encourage people to speak up if they are suffering. I hope that people will see that anyone can be affected by a mental health problem, through no fault of their own. Police officer, police service

Useful contacts

There is support out there for you if you are struggling with PTSD.

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Blue Light Infoline

Get confidential support and signposting

> Find out more

Research reports

Use our learning to benefit team 999 mental health

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Resources

Access our films, case studies and more

> Access now