What causes PTSD?

The situations someone finds traumatic can vary from person to person. Some people develop PTSD after a single traumatic event. But for others, it can be the ‘drip effect’ of experiencing a number of traumatic situations over a longer period of time.

Emergency services staff and volunteers are particularly at risk of developing PTSD because of their repeated exposure to traumatic events. Lack of support, high workload, and a workplace culture of just ‘getting on with it’ can further exacerbate a person’s feeling of trauma.

I was just expected to ‘cope’ as it was ‘the job’. Police officer, police service

There are other factors that may make you more vulnerable to developing PTSD, or may make the problems you experience more severe:

  • getting physically hurt or feeling pain
  • having little or no support from your employer, or from friends, family or professionals
  • dealing with extra stress at the same time
  • previously experiencing anxiety or depression
  • dealing with traumatic situations that hold personal resonance (something about the traumatic event reminds you of a loved one, or you can relate to it from a personal experience)

It was a horrendous call and more so, she just reminded me of my mum. She just sounded like my mum and everything, and that’s what gets to you a bit more, because you start imagining your relative in this situation, especially when you are linked to it. It does make it worse. Call handler, police service

I’ve seen some pretty horrific things in the job – but of course different jobs affect people differently. I think it was the fact that I’ve got similar aged children myself. That’s why this job hit me so hard. At the time, the mental health support at work wasn't as well-developed as it is now and I didn't know where to access support.  Paramedic, ambulance service

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