Most of us have probably often wondered how first responders deal with the stress they routinely encounter in their jobs. Their work life, while often rewarding, can at any moment become frustrating, gruesome and sad.

Dealing with loss of life, violent criminals, small children living in drug houses, families burned out of their homes, or other traumas great and small, can and do take a toll.

Until now, many first responders and emergency technicians suffered in silence. Or, when they did seek treatment for job-related stress, they could find their requests for reimbursement rejected.

As of Jan. 1, though, a new state law recognizes post-traumatic stress disorder as an occupational disease for police officers, firefighters, paramedics, emergency medical technicians and nurses who provide emergency services outside a medical facility.

Previously, those filing a workers’ compensation claim for PTSD had to prove the issue was related to work. As a result, they often had their claims denied. According to the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, of the 23 claims filed in 2018, none have received payment, and are still awaiting settlement.

Ideally, that won’t happen under the new statute. One of the main reasons for enacting the law is to make sure first responders get the help they need in a timely manner.

After all, these men and women do essential work in our communities. We owe them our gratitude, not to mention assistance, financial or otherwise, when the job overwhelms them.

“When people do need help, I think it’s the state’s role and the employer’s role to make sure that people get the treatment they need, and this makes it more likely,” Chris Parsons, president of Minnesota Professional Firefighters, told the Post Bulletin.

We agree, and while words of thanks might help first responders know that we recognize the difficulty of their jobs, this statute also says we’ve got their back in other ways as well.

Also, we hope this change will encourage more first responders to decide they don’t have to hide the way stress affects them. They should know that there is no stigma attached to needing and asking for help. From the outside, their jobs look impossibly complicated and stressful. We can only imagine the amount of stress involved in doing those jobs day after day.

The good news is help is available, and it is now easier than ever to request it.

Rochester Post Bulletin

Jan. 22

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