June is National PTSD Awareness Month

6/19/2017

It's important for military members or first responders to seek help if they think they have PTSD.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a pervasive affliction that affects active duty military members, veterans, first responders and even government contractors working in combat zones.

Spreading awareness of PTSD

"In 2010 Congress designated June 27 as PTSD Awareness Day."

In 2010, Congress designated June 27 as PTSD Awareness Day to promote visibility and effective treatment for the affliction. Four years later, Congress set aside the entire month of June for National PTSD Awareness. The goal is to increase knowledge among the public about issues related to PTSD, to encourage those suffering from this affliction to seek help and to provide insights into caring for family members coping with PTSD.

"Greater understanding and awareness of PTSD will help veterans and others recognize symptoms, and seek and obtain needed care," explained Paula P. Schnurr, M.D., executive director of the National Center for PTSD.

During June, government agencies, advocacy groups, medical associations and other PTSD-related associations come together to boost awareness for the condition.

How common is PTSD?

The nature of the environments where military members and first responders work puts them in precarious and sometimes life-threatening situations and the lingering trauma can have a big impact on their lives. These traumatic events can lead to:

  • Nightmares.
  • Flashbacks.
  • Trouble sleeping or concentrating.
  • Negative feelings.

Often people experiencing PTSD think they're alone, but the truth is it is far more widespread than many might believe. Veterans often have higher incidences of having stress disorders. According to VA statistics, veterans with PTSD account for:

  • Between 11 and 20 percent of soldiers who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
  • Around 12 percent of Gulf War (Desert Storm) veterans.
  • An estimated 30 percent of military members deployed in the Vietnam War.

While veterans comprise a large percentage of those with PTSD, first responders are also regularly exposed to the types of traumas that lead to stress disorders. A recent report published by the International Association of Fire Fighters found that firefighters and paramedics suffer from PTSD at similar levels to veterans.

Writing on the American Military University's website In Public Safety, faculty member Michelle Beshears explained how police officers often experience cumulative PTSD - the result of repeated stress-related incidents.  

Further, PTSD is not strictly limited to the military and first responders. The VA also noted that roughly 7 to 8 percent of the U.S. population will experience PTSD at some point. In a year, approximately 8 million U.S. adults have PTSD. However, many won't seek treatment for a number of reasons.

What you can do to help

If you know anyone who might be suffering PTSD, be sure to offer support. While not everyone will want to discuss the issue, it's important to let them know you're available to help.

If a dialogue about the person's PTSD opens up, encourage him or her to seek treatment. There are a variety of centers and organizations that offer options for assistance and care. 

Congress mandated the formation of the VA's National Center for PTSD in 1989 to address the needs of veterans with military-related PTSD. They have extensive research, education material and training opportunities for advancing the social welfare and clinical care of veterans with stress disorders. 

In addition, non-governmental groups like Operation We Are Here provide an extensive directory of resources for those who have experienced a traumatic incident. From anonymous self-assessments and financial assistance to veteran service organizations and reintegration sources, there are plenty of options available to help.

By spreading awareness and contributing to ongoing treatment efforts, everyone can lend a hand in combating PTSD.

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