Have you ever been in a crowded movie theater and watched as everyone around you burst into hysterical laughter at the action on screen, but you don’t find anything funny about the movie? Whether it’s something as small as sense of humor or as significant as a poignant life experience, the reality is that we all process events differently. The same is true of traumatic events, which can include car accidents, the death of a loved one, military combat, or sexual assault. For some, the effects of these events might present themselves immediately, but for others, reactions can remain internal and build into deep seeded issues such as Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
After a traumatic event, loved ones will want to be part of the healing process, but if they know what’s troubling the sufferer, they might not know the best approach or the resources available. You should expect for there to be a transition period before returning to everyday life, such as work or social events. But what is “normal” behavior? How much time must pass before sadness becomes depression, or rapid changes in mood turn into violent outbursts? With the right treatment, research shows that PTSD could be intercepted before major symptoms begin.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has named June PTSD Awareness Month. With up to 20% of veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan suffering from PTSD, raising awareness and providing resources for service members, veterans, and their families is more important than ever. The effects of ongoing war have certainly raised the profile of PTSD in the military and veteran communities, but combat is not the only trigger. According to the Department of Defense, up to 7.7 million Americans are affected, and more than 2/3 of PTSD cases go unreported, for reasons varying from fear of losing employment to outside perception.
Although your emotions seem deeply personal, don’t attempt to shoulder the responsibilities on your own. There are numerous resources available for use before problems escalate. If you feel as though something is wrong, or you are a family member worried about your loved one, and you aren’t sure that what to call this feeling or what to do next, this online assessment can be a great place to start.
Each week in June the VA posted important PTSD information on their website. The VA will use veterans to introduce website visitors to important PTSD issues and how to seek help.
In addition, the VA created several PTSD informational pamphlets:
- Understanding PTSD Treatment
- Returning from the War Zone Guides
- For Veterans and Families
The VA also created several PTSD related brochures:
Prolonged changes in mood and behavior also take their toll on family members trying to understand and reconnect with suffering loved ones. Read a blog from the perspective of three military spouses whose husbands suffer from PTSD.
Community resources are available through the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
The Department of Defense (DoD) also has valuable resources available for service members, veterans, and their families. The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health & Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) has programs for psychological health and other resources to ensure DoD meets the needs of service members and their families, along with military communities. DCoE is working to tear down the stigma that still deters some from seeking treatment for PTS/PTSD with their Real Warriors Campaign. The National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) offers a 24/7 Outreach Center that provides information on psychological health, as well as other resources.
The National Military Family Association agrees it is important to raise awareness of PTS and PTSD and to provide our service members, veterans, and their families, along with the communities they live in, with valuable resources. Please pass this information on to others. It is important that every touch-point for our service members, veterans, and their families can recognize the signs and symptoms of PTS/PTSD and they know where the resources are to help them. Quick recognition and intervention can make all the difference.
(Sources: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/about/print-materials/Materials_for_Printing.asp; http://mentalhealthscreening.org/docs/PTSDAwarenessDay.pdf)
Until military families are relieved of the weight of war, we hope you will continue to contribute to their wellbeing.
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