Expert guidelines: Diagnosis and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder in emergency service workers

A world first occurred this week, and it didn't involve space travel, or a new species. No new records have been broken, and Taylor Swift hasn't released a new album.

This world first involves the people who risk their lives to keep us safe, day in and day out.

The Black Dog Institute and the University of New South Wales, alongside several of Australia's leading organisations and mental health professionals, have developed and released a set of guidelines specifically designed for emergency workers. Its focus is on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and covers prevalence, diagnosis, potential treatments, co-morbidity with other illnesses, facilitating return to work, and other recommendations.

Considering the necessity of our emergency services, and their immeasurable value, it's a surprising world first. Not because of its content, but because it hadn't already been done. After all, it's no revelation that ambulance, fire, and police officers regularly have to front traumatic situations.

Over the past few months, I've spoken with police officers, fire-fighters, and paramedics. All in different positions, some retired, many still working, all with the same message of concern; that the mental health support is either inadequate or simply not there. They have shared their own struggles, those of their co-workers, and in some cases the friends and partners they have lost to suicide.

Unfortunately there is still stigma surrounding mental health and mental illness even within these services. As well, the costs, resources, and infrastructure sometimes just aren't there.

It's a situation where the people who care for everyone else, are sometimes the ones least cared for.

Our emergency services literally put out our fires, they breathe life back into us, and keep us safe. They are who we all call in a crisis. They need and deserve care. Not just because that's what all of us deserve, but because without them, who would we turn to?

Mental health can be complicated, and there is still a long way to go, but we are heading in the right direction.

As an Australian, I'm proud to know we're leading the way.

Full copy of the guidelines available via the Black Dog Institute here