June 27, 2017 is PTSD Awareness Day
Today’s National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day observance reflects how PTSD became known as an “invisible wound of war” during more than a decade of combat, a Defense Health Agency official said.
John Davison, a clinical psychologist and chief of condition-based specialty care in DHA’s clinical support division, said in a June 24 DoD News interview that it’s important to recognize PTSD’s signs and symptoms.
“We know a lot more about PTSD today than we did after previous wars, such as Vietnam,” Davison said, noting that symptoms of PTSD have existed in every war in American history.
The Senate established PTSD Awareness Day in 2010 following then-Sen. Kent Conrad’s efforts to designate a day of awareness as tribute to Army Staff Sgt. Joe Biel of the North Dakota National Guard, Davison said. Biel suffered from PTSD and took his life in April 2007 after returning to North Dakota following his second tour of duty in the Iraq War.
Biel’s birthday, June 27, was chosen to mark PTSD Awareness Day and honor his memory.
“It’s important to know that deploying to a combat zone does not necessarily cause one to [develop] PTSD,” Davison said. “The vast majority who deploy in dangerous situations do not develop PTSD.”
Know PTSD Symptoms
Nonetheless, service members, veterans and their family members and friends should learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of PTSD, he added.
“PTSD has an identifiable cause, which is experiencing or witnessing a significant trauma,” he said. “The disorder is treatable at any stage, whether it’s an early or late onset [or] a severe or a mild case,” Davison explained. People who might have symptoms should get treatment early, he said, before symptoms worsen or they turn to unhealthy ways of coping with the symptoms, such as abusing alcohol or drugs.
Returning service members might not talk about traumatizing experiences, Davison acknowledged, but he noted that others around them might recognize hallmark symptoms. Signs of PTSD, he said, can include re-experiencing the trauma, avoiding reminders of the trauma, and disturbances in thoughts or moods.
Some have a tendency to isolate themselves, withdraw from trauma reminders and avoid public places such as malls and large events, Davison said. Some people with PTSD might emotionally detach or become estranged from people to whom they were once close, he added.
Signs of ‘Survivor Guilt’
Others might allude to blaming themselves for a trauma experienced by someone else, which is called “survivor guilt,” Davison said. “If someone close died as result of trauma, those with PTSD might wonder, ‘Why him and not me?’” he said.
Another category of symptoms features hyperactivity — the person remains “on guard,” has angry outbursts, problems with sleep, and reckless or self-destructive behavior, Davison said.
Successful Treatments Vary
The good news is that DoD and the Veterans Affairs Department have gone to great lengths to increase access to evidence-based treatment for PTSD, Davison said.
“The Army has embedded [behavioral health] providers close to operational units to increase access to help and decrease stigma some might feel [about] pursuing mental health treatment or counseling,” he said. “We have a number of effective treatments available that have demonstrated through research to be helpful.”
Treatments range from various psychotherapy approaches to pharmacotherapy — using “very safe, common medications for depression and anxiety” that can accompany disorder symptoms, Davison said.
Counseling is available from an individual’s primary care doctor, and they also can talk to a behavioral health provider, he said. Counseling also is available from a behavioral health specialty clinic, he added, and nonclinical settings where people can talk to a chaplain or access help from Military OneSource or VA’s readjustment counseling services.
Those feeling acutely distressed should call the Military/Veterans Crisis Line, Davison said. The hotline is available at 800-273-8255 — press 1 or text 838255.
Here is a growing list of Organizations, VA Departments and U.S. Government Agencies who are all working together to create awareness of PTSD and find effective treatments that can help:
Department of Veterans Affairs
To provide a wealth of resources to our US Veterans, VA is made up of three branches, Veterans Health (VHA), Veterans Benefits (VBA), and Cemetery.
- VA’s National Center for PTSD
The National Center for PTSD is dedicated to research and education on trauma and PTSD. We work to assure that the latest research findings help those exposed to trauma.
- Veterans Health Administration (VHA)
This VHA site provides access to apply for health benefits. Read real stories from Inside Veterans Health, or access the MyHealthIVet portal.
- VA Office of Mental Health Services
Provides a range of information on depression, substance abuse, and other mental health problems, to improve the health and well-being of Veterans through excellence in health care, social services, education, and research.
- VA Military Sexual Trauma Support Team
Military sexual trauma (MST) is the term that VA uses to refer to sexual assault or repeated, threatening sexual harassment that occurred while the Veteran was in the military. Both women and men can experience MST during their service. Learn more about what VA is doing to help.
- VA MIRECCs
The Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Centers (MIRECC) generates new knowledge about the causes and treatments of mental disorders, applies new findings to model clinical programs, and widely disseminates new findings through education to improve the quality of Veterans’ lives and their daily functioning in their recovering from mental illness.
Make the Connection is a public awareness campaign by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs aimed at helping Veterans overcome and seek treatment for mental health conditions. The campaign provides extensive resources for Veterans suffering from post traumatic stress, including:
- VA approved treatment and support resources
- Hundreds of video testimonials from Veterans who overcame PTSD
- Information on how to recognize PTSD and seek treatment
A mental wellness resource for Service Members, Veterans, and Military Families.
- BraveHeart Welcome Back Veterans Southeast Initiative
Emory University and the Atlanta Braves have teamed up to offer Veterans of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and their family members a variety of expert support resources. Our mission is focused on helping people in the Southeastern United States get help for PTSD.
- International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS)
ISTSS is an international, interdisciplinary professional organization that promotes advancement and exchange of knowledge about traumatic stress. This knowledge includes: Understanding the scope and consequences of traumatic exposure, preventing traumatic events and ameliorating their consequences and advocating for the field of traumatic stress.
- National Child Traumatic Stress Network
A Center to improve access to care, treatment, and services for children and adolescents exposed to traumatic events and to encourage and promote collaboration between service providers in the field.
- National Resource Directory
A tri-agency Web portal that connects wounded warriors, Service members, Veterans, their families and caregivers with those who support them. Links to 10,000+ resources.
- Real Warriors Campaign
The Real Warriors Campaign is a multimedia public education campaign sponsored by the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury to encourage help-seeking behavior among service members and veterans with invisible wounds.
- Veterans on Deck
This is a 501c3 nonprofit designed by VA PTSD clinicians and researchers to compliment evidence based psychotherapy with opportunities for social interaction and community reintegration of PTSD and MST Veterans through team sailing with PTSD clinicians.
- Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA)
The VVA is a congressionally chartered not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to improving the condition of Vietnam-era Veterans and their families.
A blog that provides wounded, ill, injured and transitioning Service members and their families with information on programs and initiatives that affect them.
- At Risk Veterans
Veteran Owned Business’ resource for veterans who are at risk for unemployment, homelessness, hunger, pet surrendering and more. Provide information about veterans’ assistance programs including no/low cost legal services, food banks and more.
- Nonprofit Directory
Directory of nearly 1,000 nonprofit organizations, veterans organizations and businesses offering no-cost services that directly or indirectly help veterans, active duty military, military families and military community in general.
- Space Coast Kibble Kitchen
Provides pet food in the community for those less fortunate including homeless veterans.