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May 23, 2019

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Female firefighters at risk of PTSD, study finds

Female firefighters are at a greater risk of developing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and experiencing suicidal thoughts than male firefighters, according to a new study published in Occupational Medicine Journal.

firefighterA study has discovered that almost one in three (30%) female firefighters indicated that they had considered, or attempted, suicide compared to one in seven (15%) male firefighters.

The research went on to reveal that PTSD symptoms were also more common among female firefighters, with one in five (20%) indicating that they had experienced such symptoms, compared to one in eight (12%) male firefighters. At the highest risk of developing PTSD symptoms were women who had been in the career for between 10-20 years.

The study also found that approximately one third of both male (31%) and female (32%) firefighters screened positive for alcohol problems.

Over 2,500 firefighters were assessed in order to compile the report. Though, of those questioned, only 75 were women. They were quizzed on whether they had experienced symptoms of depression, general stress, PTSD, problem behaviours associated with alcohol consumption and if they had considered or attempted suicide.

Earlier this month, SHP reported that PTSD is a common disorder amongst police officers.

Hazardous situations

Firefighters are exposed to emotionally charged and hazardous situations, there is a threat that the work they do could cause serious injuries, disfigurement or death. This, according to the study authors, is said to make them vulnerable to mental health problems.

The study authors also highlighted that female firefighters are experiencing a number of challenges in the industry and have called on screening and intervention programmes to be specifically aimed at the increased risk factors which differ between male and female firefighters.

Study author, Professor Consuelo Arbona said: “In addition to the stressors associated with the work of first-responders, women firefighters are likely to experience challenges associated with being female in a male oriented work environment. Gender discrimination and harassment are also likely to increase a woman’s risk for traumatic stress and suicidal ideation. Therefore, screening and interventions need to consider the specific occupational and psychological needs of female firefighters.”

Andy Rudd from Mace talks vividly about his experience of suffering with PTSD in ‘Mind Matters’, a new series of mental health videos from SHP and The Healthy Work Company.

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