Working as a military or government contractor requires great bravery and self-sacrifice as men and women leave their homes and families to serve our country. While employed, overseas contractors often experience traumatic events, including violence, injuries, and the loss of friends or co-workers.
Sadly, many federal contractors return home with injuries that can be physical and mental. While medical doctors can usually treat physical wounds, mental harm, known as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is harder to address.
PTSD is alarmingly common among federal contract workers. If you’re experiencing mental health concerns after returning from a government contract position, you’re not alone. If you were employed as a government contractor overseas, your PTSD may be considered a disability claim under the defense base act. Grossman Attorneys at Law is considered one of the best defense base act litigation firms in the nation. Contact us now to discuss the potential of filing a claim for your federal contract-related PTSD.
If you are experiencing severe symptoms leading to a mental health crisis with suicidal thoughts, you must reach out for help now. Contact a family member, friend, or fellow worker. For professional help, consider these treatment options:
- Chat with a crisis counselor at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
- Call 1-800-273-TALK to talk to a free crisis counselor
- Reach out to a pastor or spiritual leader
- Go to an emergency room
- Call 911
These crisis support options can refer you to a mental health provider or treatment facility that can work with you for weeks or months as you try to heal.
How Does PTSD Impact Federal Contractors?
PTSD is a mental health problem people experience after a traumatic event. Overseas contractors may experience trauma while working in combat theaters and show symptoms of PTSD when they return home.
PTSD symptoms for contractors can include:
- Troubling memories,
- Flashbacks triggered by sounds,
- Feeling on edge,
- Feeling numb,
- Feeling guilt or shame,
- Avoiding situations that remind you of the trauma, and
- Staying busy to avoid thinking about the traumatic event.
You may experience PTSD symptoms every day, or they may come and go. If you experience these symptoms for more than a few months or if they are disturbing your ability to function, you should seek treatment from someone who understands how PTSD impacts military base contractors.
How Common is PTSD in Oversea Contractors?
PTSD in overseas federal contractors has reached epidemic proportions as the U.S. has been engaged in numerous major military actions for more than the past 30 years. Supporting our country in a combat zone is an honorable undertaking, but it also takes its toll. While no study has been carried out on military contractors, a 2014 study of veterans found that 87% have experienced at least one traumatic event. Since military contractors work in some of the same environments as veterans, it can be assumed that they are exposed to many of the same stressors.
Federal employees can experience PTSD at different rates, depending on where they worked, according to the National Center for PTSD. We can look at the rate of PTSD among veterans to get an idea of how common it is among federal workers.
- Between 11% and 20% of those who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF) have PTSD each year.
- About 12% of those deployed in Gulf War (Desert Storm) have PTSD each year.
- About 15% of those deployed in Vietnam were diagnosed with PTSD in a study conducted in the late 1980s.
PTSD statistics indicate that there are many men and women who have worked in war zones that are in need of treatment to help them cope with traumatic memories.
What Risk Factors Contribute to PTSD Among Military Contractors?
PTSD studies have shown a variety of risk factors for the condition, and divide risks into those experienced before, during, and after trauma.
Risk Factors Before Trauma
Risk factors for PTSD before trauma occurs include:
- Female gender,
- Ethnic minority status,
- Low education,
- Non-officer ranks,
- Combat specialization,
- High numbers of deployments, and
- Longer cumulative length of deployments.
The more adverse life events, including prior trauma, that an overseas federal contractor has experienced, the more prone they are to psychological problems such as PTSD.
Risk Factors During Trauma
Risk factors that occur during trauma in combat include:
- Increased combat exposure,
- Fear of missile or chemical attacks,,
- Witnessing someone being wounded or killed, and
- War zone-related stressors.
After the trauma, the risk for PTSD may be increased or decreased depending on the level of support provided. Those working under federal contracts need support from family, friends, and medical professionals to overcome or reduce PTSD symptoms.
How is PTSD in Government Contractors Treated?
When you have PTSD, you may feel discouraged about getting better. However, researchers have identified some effective treatments.
The National Center for PTSD recommends trauma-focused psychotherapy as the best treatment option for the condition. The following therapies may alleviate symptoms of PTSD.
Prolonged Exposure (PE)
Prolonged exposure therapy allows you to gradually confront traumatic memories to move past anxiety.
Cognitive Processing (CPT)
Cognitive processing therapy encourages you to work out traumatic thoughts through reflective writing, which allows you to change the feelings associated with these thoughts.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
This psychotherapy helps contractors process upsetting memories by using an image or sound to represent their trauma. This method shifts the way you process and experience traumatic memories.
If your brain chemicals are off-balance, you may experience depression and anxiety. Medications such as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and SNRIs (selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) can alter your brain chemicals and reduce PTSD symptoms. A doctor or psychiatrist can discuss pharmaceutical treatment options with you. Your doctor or therapist can also discuss treatment options with you, including the advantages and disadvantages of each method.
Seeking Treatment for Government Contract Work Related PTSD?
You should seek treatment for PTSD whenever you realize you need help. Some contractors know they have mental health struggles as soon as they return from serving, while others take years to process the trauma they experienced. Even if you served decades ago, you can still seek help and improve your ability to enjoy life.
Many contractors don’t feel ready to seek treatment or are nervous about discussing their trauma. An experienced therapist can help you work at your own pace to overcome your PTSD, so it’s best to reach out for help even if you aren’t ready to open up about your experience.
While you work on finding the best treatment for your PTSD, consider attending a PTSD support group. A support group does not substitute for PTSD treatment, but it can provide you with an understanding community that will encourage you as you work to heal.