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April 2018 Issue
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PTSD in search and rescue

Search and rescue volunteers deal with traumatic events which can lead to some rescuers developing post-traumatic stress disorder.

You’ve really got to take your hat off to search and rescue volunteers. Not only do they risk life and limb to aid those in desperate need of help, but as we learn in our feature ‘The trauma of rescue’, they also risk their sanity.

It came as a real shock to learn that up to 20 per cent of emergency service personnel develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). That includes search and rescue volunteers. When I think of PTSD, I tend to associate it with war zones and something wounded soldiers might suffer. But tragically, the harrowing experiences of those in the search and rescue community can have a very real and lasting mental impact. PTSD can be debilitating and have huge negative consequences on the lives of those who suffer it. Treatment must be offered to help sufferers overcome it, or it could become a lifelong illness. While some search and rescue teams at a local level offer their members psychological support, there is no overarching strategy to support volunteers who struggle with some of the scenes they have witnessed. To its credit, LandSAR says it is looking into developing a support programme. The sooner it does this the better.

Will the Pouakai Crossing one day become as popular as the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (‘The contender’)? That’s the hope of some, but I doubt it. Mt Taranaki is just too isolated to be a serious rival. But to my mind that’s got to be one of the main selling points. We go to these places to get away from it all and during the summer, there’s no getting away from anything on the TAC. It’s just one long conga line. You won’t have that on the Pouakai Crossing anytime soon – at least on the sections beyond the Instagram-famous tarn on Pouakai (see our cover photo).

I hope Pouakai remains relatively anonymous for a wee bit longer.