PTSD Awareness

We all have a role to play in listening, connecting and reaching out to those who may be struggling with challenges. By talking about mental health and suicide, it not only helps reduce stigma and increase awareness, but it also has the potential to save a life.

Rally Point – Find Your Tribe: Navigating PTSD and Moral Injuries

The month of June is dedicated to bringing awareness to Post-traumatic Stress and reducing the stigma attached to seeking treatment. Our Rally Point focused on how to “Find Your Tribe: Navigating PTSD and Moral Injuries” with special guest active-duty United States Marine Corps Major Tom Schueman, founder of Patrol Base Abbate.

Rally Point: Working Together to End Veteran Suicide

Our June Rally Point features Magnus Johnson, a U.S. Army Veteran and former Green Beret, and Chief Strategy Officer of Mission 22, whose mission is to support the Veteran community with three main programs: Veteran treatment programs, memorials and community social impact. In addition, leaders in innovative treatments for suicide and trauma for military personnel, Veterans and first responders at The Ohio State University Veterans Craig Bryan, PsyD, ABPP and AnnaBelle Bryan, MS joined the conversation.

The Healing Power of Yoga

As a part of PTSD Awareness Month, Veteran and Gold Star Spouse Jennifer Ballou hosts a hybrid yoga session at the National Veterans Memorial and Museum. This program includes a brief introduction and a 45-minute Restorative Flow yoga class, followed by closing remarks on how yoga and mindfulness tie into physical wellness and mental health.

What is PTSD?

“Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident or sexual assault.” – U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

“Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event – either experiencing it or witnessing it.” – Mayo Clinic

Causes

You can develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder when you go through, see or learn about an event involving actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violation. Anyone can develop PTSD at any age. Doctors aren’t sure why some people get PTSD while others don’t. A number of factors can increase the chance that someone will have PTSD, many of which are not under that person’s control. For example, having a very intense or long-lasting traumatic event or getting injured during the event can make it more likely that a person will develop PTSD. As with most mental health problems, PTSD is probably caused by a complex of:

  • Stressful experiences, including the amount and severity of trauma you’ve gone through in your life.
  • Inherited mental health risk, such as a family history of anxiety and depression.
  • Inherited features of your personality – often called your temperament.
  • The way your brain regulates the chemicals and hormones your body releases in response to stress.

The most common events leading to the development of PTSD include:

  • Combat exposure
  • Childhood physical abuse
  • Sexual violence
  • Physical assault
  • Being threatened with a weapon
  • An accident

Many other traumatic events can also lead to PTSD, such as fire, natural disaster, mugging, robbery, plane crash, torture, kidnapping, life-threatening medical diagnosis, terrorist attack and other extreme or life-threatening events.

Symptoms

Symptoms of PTSD may start within one month of a traumatic event, but sometimes symptoms may not appear until years after the event. These symptoms cause significant problems in social or work situations and in relationships. They can also interfere with your ability to go about your normal daily tasks. There are four major types of symptoms: re-experiencing, avoidance, hyperarousal, and negative changes in beliefs and feelings.

Re-Experiencing, Reliving, or Intrusive Memories

Memories of traumatic event can come back at any time. You may feel the same fear and horror you did when the event took place. For example:

  • You may have nightmares.
  • You may feel like you are going through the event again. This is called a flashback.
  • You may see, hear, or smell something that causes you to relive the event. This is called a trigger. News reports, seeing an accident, or hearing a car backfire are examples of triggers.
  • You may have recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event.

Avoidance

You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event. For example:

  • You may avoid crowds, because they feel dangerous.
  • You may avoid driving if you were in a car accident or if your military convoy was bombed.
  • If you were in an earthquake, you may avoid watching movies about earthquakes.
  • You may keep very busy or avoid seeking help because it keeps you from having to think or talk about the event.

Hyperarousal or Being on Guard

You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. You might suddenly become angry or irritable. This is known as hyperarousal. For example:

  • You may have a hard time sleeping.
  • You may have trouble concentrating.
  • You may be startled by a loud noise or surprise.
  • You might want to have your back to a wall in a restaurant or waiting room.
  • Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior.
  • Overwhelming guilt or shame.
  • Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too fast.

Negative Changes in Beliefs and Feelings

The way you think about yourself and others changes because of the trauma. This symptom has many aspects, including the following:

  • You may not have positive or loving feelings towards yourself or other people and may stay away from relationships.
  • You may forget about parts of the traumatic event or not be able to talk about them.
  • You may think the world is completely dangerous, and no one can be trusted.
  • Feeling detached from family and friends.
  • Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed.
  • Difficulty experiencing positive emotions or feeling emotionally numb.

PTSD Symptoms in Children

Children may have symptoms described above or other symptoms depending on how old they are. As children get older, their symptoms are more like those of adults. Here are some examples of PTSD symptoms in children:

  • Children under 6 may get upset if their parents are not close by, have trouble sleeping, or act out the trauma through play.
  • Children 7 to 11 may also act out the trauma through play, drawings, or stories. Some have nightmares or become more irritable or aggressive. They may also want to avoid school or have trouble with schoolwork or friends.
  • Children age 12 to 18 have symptoms more similar to adults: depression, anxiety, withdrawal, or reckless behavior like substance abuse or running away.

Treatment

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder treatment can help you regain a sense of control over your life. The primary treatment is psychotherapy, but can also include medication. Combining these treatments can help improve your symptoms by:

  • Teaching you skills to address your symptoms.
  • Helping you think better about yourself, others, and the world.
  • Learning ways to cope if any symptoms arise again.
  • Help you make sense of the trauma.
  • Help you reconnect with people you care about.
  • Treating other problems often related to traumatic experiences, such as depression, anxiety, or misuse of alcohol or drugs.

You don’t have to try to handle the burden of PTSD on your own. For additional ways to find help with PTSD, please visit the “Get Help” tab at the top of the page.

How can I help someone with PTSD?

When someone you care about has PTSD, it affects you too. You are probably spending time and energy to help your loved one cope. Even if your partner, family member, or friend with PTSD is getting treatment and getting better, you may still feel drained, worried, or even frustrated. You need support at the same time you are giving support.

Remember that you can’t change someone. However, you can:

  • Learn about PTSD. This can help you understand what your loved one is going through.
  • Recognize that avoidance and withdrawal are part of the disorder. If your loved one resists your help, allow space and let your loved one know that you’re available when he or she is ready to accept your help.
  • Offer to attend medical appointments. If your loved one is willing, attending appointments can help you understand and assist with treatment.
  • Be willing to listen. Let your loved one know you’re willing to listen, but you understand if he or she doesn’t want to talk. Try not to force your loved one to talk about the trauma until he or she is ready.
  • Encourage participation. Plan opportunities for activities with family and friends. Celebrate good events.
  • Make your own health a priority. Take care of yourself by eating healthy, being physically active and getting enough rest. Take time alone or with friends, doing activities that help you recharge.
  • Seek help if you need it. If you have difficulty coping, talk with your doctor. He or she may refer you to a therapist who can help you work through your stress.
  • Stay safe. Plan a safe place for yourself and your children if your loved one becomes violent or abusive.

These resources can help you locate a therapist, counselor or mental health provider who is right for you. Note: These resources can be used by anyone, and if you are a Veteran, see the “Help for Veterans” section below.

  • Sidran Institute Help Desk will help you find therapists who specialize in trauma treatment. Call the Help Desk at 410-825-8888.
  • Anxiety and Depression Association of America offers a therapist search by location and mental health disorder. Call 240-485-1011.
  • EMDR International Association has a locator that lists EMDR providers.
  • ISTSS Clinician Directory is a service provided by the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS) that lets you consider many factors in searching for a clinician, counselor or mental health professional.
  • American Psychological Association has a Psychologist Locator that allows you to search by location, specialty, insurance accepted and gender of the provider.
  • Psychology Today offers a therapist directory by location. You can also find treatment centers.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers a Behavioral Health Services Locator by location and type of facility (inpatient, outpatient, residential). Call for assistance 24-hours a day at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

In addition to the numbers listed above, you can also find a therapist, counselor or mental health provider in the following ways:

  • Some mental health services are listed in the phone book. In the Government pages, look in the “County Government Offices” section, and find the “Health Services (Dept. of)” or “Department of Health Services”. “Mental Health” or “Behavioral Health” will be listed.
  • In the yellow pages, mental health providers are listed under “counseling”. “psychologists”, “social workers”, “psychotherapists”, “social and human services”, “mental health” or “behavioral health”.
  • You can also call the psychology department of a local college or university.
  • All VA Medical Centers and many VA clinics provide PTSD care.
  • Some VA centers have specialty programs for PTSD. Use the VA PTSD Program Locator to find a VA PTSD program.
  • Vet Centers provide readjustment counseling to Veterans and their families after war. Find a Vet Center near you.
  • VA Medical Centers and Vet Centers are also listed in the phone book. In the Government pages, look under “United States Government Offices”. Then look for “Veterans Affairs, Dept of”. In that section, look under “Medical Care” and “Vet Centers – Counseling and Guidance.”
  • If you are a Veteran looking for a community care provider, learn more about VA’s MISSION Act.

Resources

The Veterans Crisis Line

A free, confidential, 24-hour hotline for Veterans and their families. Call 1-800-273-8255 or text 383255. Options available for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

TUES-SUN 10 A.M. - 5 P.M.
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