The Brass Tacks

Hello followers... yes I know I used the plural noun for "follower" - I am an optimist.

Today I want to talk to you about something that gets my blood boiling, you know the type of thing that brings out Charles Bronson deep inside you. It is an injustice that needs to end NOW! This one is for all my service brothers and sisters. We may wear different uniforms but we all bleed the same.

If you were to cut your finger at work, I am sure we could all agree it is a workplace injury requiring basic first aid. You would most likely go to the first aid station, clean the wound, dress it with a bandage, and finally report the incident to your supervisor. Pretty straightforward, well except for the paperwork your supervisor just handed you.

Now let's say you go to work one day and are suddenly overwhelmed by the type of anxiety that paralyzes you and makes it hard to breath. You try your best to figure out what's going on, but all you know is that something shifted and that you are not okay. You try to talk to your peers but are afraid of the stigma. You try to sleep but you are haunted by flashbacks and dreams and truly fear closing your eyes. You try to talk to your supervisor but are dismissed and told that it is just stress - "Just take some time off and you will be fine." F.I.N.E. in the mental health world is a red flag and is the acronym for "Feeling Insecure, Negative, Emotional". If you feel like your want to break something or maybe yell right now... you are not alone. If you are afraid to close your eyes... your not alone. They, the people that don't understand your condition, have many names for what you are experiencing:

- Occupational Stress Injury (OSI)

- Post Traumatic Injury (PTI)

- Stress-Related Injury (SRI)

- Post Traumatic Stress (PTS)

- Battle Fatigue

- Shell Shock

- and my personal favourite "a Personal Matter"

The BRASS TACKS is that you most likely have suffered a workplace psychological injury/illness called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It may be hard for your supervisor to say or even admit that it exists, but it is right here in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5). A document widely used and accepted by the entire mental health system. At the end of the day, your supervisor and your employer have legal obligations to report all workplace injuries and illnesses including workplace psychological injuries and illnesses.

Employers should not:

- downplay your condition and tell you it is just part of the job

- tell you it is just stress and encourage you to take a sick day or vacation

- tell you it is a "personal issue" and that you should consider using your short/long

term disability insurance

Employers should:

- ensure the worker is safe from harm, including self-harm

- assist the employee in getting professional help

- start the workplace injury/illness process

- ensure the worker is supported before, during and after treatment.

If you or someone you know is currently suffering in silence... I want you to step away from Dr. Google and seek a mental health professional. This could be a family physician, psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, or any other person with knowledge of the mental health system.

If someone you know is currently in harm's way or likely to harm someone else, call your local emergency services immediately or head down to your local emergency room now. Not sure what to say... say what I said on February 5, 2020, "I don't feel safe by myself and I fear that I will harm myself."

Finally, if your supervisor/employer still doesn't want to do their job... pause... take a deep breath. Now contact your family physician and request that they initiate the claim process for you, in many areas, this is called a "Physician's Report". You should be contacted within a few days to start the official claim process. If you still aren't being taken seriously, I recommend directly filling your own injury report. This process varies from region to region so you may have to do a little research. If you happen to reside in Alberta, here is the link.

I know how hard it is to ask for help. Shame and guilt will haunt you into staying silent and suffering in isolation. There will be those that say things like, "are you sure that's what you really want to do". Just remember that you are not responsible for proving you have PTSD or any other occupational illness. That is the job of the professionals. Your job is to recognize something is wrong and ask for help.

There is not a doubt in my mind, that without the support of WCB Alberta I would not be here today. They had the tools and resources to not only financially support me during treatment but also had the knowledge and resources to treat my PTSD and depression.

On a final note, I always thought the phrase was "Brass Tax". As it turns out I was wrong and I think my wife's jaw just hit the floor. As it turns out, the correct phrase is actually "Brass Tacks". I encourage you to do your own homework on the phrase "Brass Tacks". I also want to give a special shout-out to my very own special "Mr. Brass Tacks". You know who you are and I appreciate you keep me honest.

by Micheal Coutu

PTSD & Mental Health Advocate

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