The Real First Responders: PTSD, Trauma & Self-Care

Monday, August 7, 2023 | 3:30 – 4:30 p.m.
Patricia A. Knoles, Kent State Police Department, Kent, Ohio

In this informative presentation, Sgt. Knowles dived into the reality of stress in our workplace, outlining the difference between stress and trauma. Oftentimes, there is a gap between what new applicants assume will be experienced and the actuality of our profession.

The sergeant has experience as a police officer, SWAT member and telecommunicator, pointing out that 9-1-1 personnel due to their call load have a greater chance of encountering a stressful situation than those other positions. She shared compelling stories of her own experiences and encouraged everyone to be prepared beforehand for the inevitable, especially having conversations with family and friends on how to best interact with you while you are decompressing.

The development of the brain and our human response to critical incidents was clarified, providing a clear picture of how and why we are impacted by our daily duties. Included here were discussions about what is trauma and vicarious trauma, the effects of trauma, and common reactions to trauma.

Of great interest was information provided that PTSD is a brain disorder and that 18 – 24% of telecommunicators suffer from PTSD.

In these times of increasing call volumes being handled by seemingly shrinking staffs, the mental and emotional support of telecommunicators is ever more important. To this end, attendees were introduced to coping mechanisms, and the sergeant identified sources of free and low-cost resources and programs available throughout the U.S. Thankfully recognition for PTSD has improved over the decades allowing for more open discussions.

Sgt. Knowles can be reached at [email protected].

Submitted by Barry Furoy