When a disaster strikes in Pennsylvania, everyone relies on the first responders who come to put out fires, rescue people and provide first aid. Bad storms, floods, fires, explosions and severe crime events inflict trauma on everyone involved, and first responders often must deal with the situation for prolonged periods of time. Viewing dead and dismembered bodies takes a toll of workers’ mental health. Psychologists call it traumatic incident stress, and it could require medical treatment.
Symptoms could strike while a person is on duty, or they might develop days or weeks later. Trauma could induce chest pain, difficulty breathing, serious pain and shock. These symptoms require immediate medical attention. Other worrisome signs of a physical response to trauma include fatigue, nausea, dizziness, jaw clenching or headaches. The stress could also impact cognitive abilities and lead to confusion, inability to concentrate or memory problems.
Suddenly erratic emotions indicate job stress for first responders as well. Anxiety, denial, fear, depression, self-blame or irritability all represent emotions that could justify mental health services for a worker after a disaster. Behavioral problems, such as emotional outbursts, heavy drinking or restlessness, also suggest that the strain has become severe for a person.
Because disasters have the potential to traumatize people, traumatic incident stress might qualify as a workplace illness. Workers compensation insurance is meant to pay for medical care and time off when employees get hurt at work or get sick because of work conditions. Insurance companies and employers, however, sometimes discourage the use of benefits and refuse to acknowledge that a workplace is a source of illness. A person in this situation may ask an attorney to prepare the insurance claim. An attorney might challenge a denial of benefits and even file a lawsuit to purse a settlement when necessary.