With more veterans returning to civilian life, many are entering the workforce with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety or depression. Hiring veterans offers employers many benefits, such as tax breaks. Helping workers who face mental health disorders feel safe can be difficult for many employees, as workers may not feel supported by other employees and their employer because of the stigma surrounding mental illness.
While many employers may not understand the mental side effects of being in the line of duty, employers have tools at their disposal to help support veterans. According to The New York Times, healthcare spending is up across the country, but mental health treatments are not due to a lack of awareness. Employers may want to consider including mental health recovery in wellness programs and adopt initiatives to reduce mental stress among staff to help those facing PTSD and other disorders.
PTSD linked to less sleep
Employers can learn about how PTSD and combat-related trauma affect veterans on the job by understanding that mental disorders can cause certain side effects. New research from the University of Pennsylvania and the Naval Health Research Center found a link between mental health disorders in veterans and insomnia. Researchers examined data from 15,204 service members from all branches of the military, and found exposure to active duty increases a person’s chances of developing mental health disorders that can affect them for the rest of their life. Sleep issues also have been linked to decreased productivity and insomnia can cause adverse health effects, such as heart disease, which can lead to increased medical costs, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Philip Gehrman, assistant professor of psychology at the Penn Sleep Center, said multiple factors can result in PTSD in service members and veterans can continue feeling the effects after they leave the military.
“The risk conferred by insomnia symptoms was almost as strong as our measure of combat exposure in adjusted models,” Gehrman said. “We hope that by early identification of those most vulnerable, the potential exists for the designing and testing of preventive strategies that may reduce the occurrence of PTSD, anxiety and depression.”
Employers that have hired veterans with PTSD can help them manage the condition by ensuring they have enough time between work shifts to get at least eight hours of sleep, as sleeping more than six hours a night can alleviate symptoms and make them more productive at work. It may be beneficial for employers to encourage former service members to speak about their experience to a trained professional. While employers may not think many veterans have PTSD and need help, a recent survey found nearly half of those who served in the Army in Afghanistan said they suffered from mental illness but were too afraid to speak up, according to USA Today. While the military has instituted efforts to decrease the stigma of mental disorders through the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs, resistance to ask for help continues.
Many veterans perceive their mental struggles as a weakness and may be unwilling to reveal they may be hurting while they are at work. Employers will want to keep the affected employee’s mental health private from the rest of the workplace, but it can be a good idea to encourage workers to simply support one another to create a positive environment.