Post-Traumatic Stress; Still a Disorder
I know, I get it. The word “Disorder” comes with a pretty negative connotation. I don’t disagree with the sentiment that Post Traumatic Stress is not something wrong with us, but something done to us. I understand the argument for the removal of the words “Disorder” for that reason; I just happen to disagree. Respectfully, disagree. Ok, so before you annihilate me, please… just hear me out.
The term “Disorder”, without the social stigma attached, and in the context of Post-Traumatic Stress, simply means a disruption of normal mental functions or an abnormal condition; which PTSD is. Now, I really hate going to dictionary definitions when arguing against something that is based in such strong feelings and personal beliefs, but I have to in this case. I have to, because in this scenario, the “D” is what protects us.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) says that our employers cannot take any adverse employment action against us, because of a disability. Hence the importance of the “D”. They are required to provide a reasonable accommodation for us to be able to successfully complete our jobs. “A reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable an applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions.” (You can read more here: https://adata.org/learn-about-ada)
So, what would be a reasonable accommodation for someone with PTSD? How about allowing time off to see a counselor, or allowing an employee to come in at an adjusted time to allow for schedule conflicts with the significant other, or kids. (Or how about not keeping a timesheet at all for most jobs, but that is another article for another day) I digress.
“If you have depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or another mental health condition, you are protected against discrimination and harassment
at work because of your condition, you have workplace privacy rights, and you may have a legal right to get reasonable accommodations that can help you perform and keep your job.” Who says? The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, that’s who. (Read more here: US EEOC/PTSD)
And all this protection because PTSD is a recognized Disorder by the American Psychiatric Society. So again, I understand and I agree with the sentiment behind removing the “Disorder”, but the lawyer in me has come to embrace the fact that our jobs, our lives, and our circumstances… CAUSED us to have a disorder.
So here is my proposition; Instead of arguing to remove the portion of our circumstances that protects us while we heal, let’s work on changing the social stigma that causes us to want to remove it in the first place. It isn’t her fault that she developed breast cancer, it isn’t his fault that he contracted malaria, and it isn’t our fault that we developed PTSD, but the mental health condition is the only one that causes people to do anything but feel empathy for those who are suffering. And in the end, she survived breast cancer, he recovered from malaria, and we can share in the same hope for survival and recovery from PTSD. And as we are recovering and maintaining, we can be the catalyst that changes public perception of mental illness. Besides, statistically speaking… there are already thousands of people worldwide who quietly suffer from mental illness, and maybe we can be a part of their hope too.