A century ago, it was “shell shock,” a strange affliction of some soldiers in the First World War. A generation later, it was combat fatigue, and little better understood (U.S. General George S. Patton famously slapped a victim, considering him a malingering coward). Then it became an occupational hazard for soldiers in Vietnam, and acquired its present name: post-traumatic stress disorder.
Since Vietnam, the problem has become somewhat better understood – and known to affect far more people than first thought. A Canadian Forces survey estimates that 11.1 per cent of regular personnel have experienced PTSD at some time, and 5.3 per cent met the case definition at the time of the survey or in the previous year.
Nor is PTSD confined to active soldiers and veterans. The RCMP notes that “Policing poses an increased risk of psychological work-related injuries. Accordingly, approximately 38 per cent of our members who are off-duty sick long-term have cited mental health, including but not exclusive to PTSD, as the reason.”
A recent report says 36 per cent of male corrections officers suffer PTSD. The report quotes Jason Godin, president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers: “One in five federal public servants will suffer from a mental-health issue and, you can tell, our numbers are a hell of a lot higher than that.”