June is PTSD Awareness Month

PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  The US Department of Veterans Affairs chose the month of June to raise community awareness of this mental health problem.

PTSD can develop after someone has been through a life or limb threatening event, otherwise known as a trauma, during which there was intense fear or horror and little sense of power or control.  Examples of such an event include war combat, rape, assault, car accident, natural disaster, etc.

After any dangerous event a person needs time to recover; the body takes time to slow down after a blast of adrenaline and elevated nervous system, the mind takes time to process the series of events and sort through the wonderings of “if only…” and “I should have…”, and along with that there is the slew of emotions which are accompanied by their own physical manifestations.  All of this is part of the normal process of recovering from a trauma and can typically be well managed through some sort of crisis debriefing.   If however the process isn’t resolved and more symptoms compound, it can be the beginning of PTSD.

One trauma expert, Francine Shapiro, believes that PTSD develops with the brain’s unsuccessful attempts to process the trauma; instead of the memory of the trauma being filed away like all the other memories, the brain gets stuck replaying it over and over.   Replaying the trauma brings with it all the terror of the original experience so the mind attempts to avoid anything that may trigger memories of the event and prompt a replaying.  This re-experiencing and avoidance are two of the main categories of PTSD symptoms, related to these are the symptoms of numbness and feeling on-edge.

You can read more about the symptoms of PTSD on this checklist provided by the VA.

Avoidance of thinking about the trauma is part of what keeps the brain from effectively processing the event, and can also be very isolating.  Watch the YouTube video “I never talked about it” in the link below to hear one veteran describe his experience of PTSD. 

In the Steamboat Springs area another veteran, Bob Mullen, has addressed the lack of communication and connection by creating a group called Out of The Shadows with the goal of “vets helping vets adjust to civilian life after combat”.  You can contact Bob at 879-6294 for more information about the group meetings or check out his website to read about Bob’s experiences and what helped him overcome PTSD.

In the Denver/Boulder area there is an organization called WINGS that facilitates support groups for survivors of childhood sexual abuse, among other services.

For US military personnel and their families all over the country an organization called Give an Hour provides free mental health services.

There are a lot of resources available, I encourage you to use them in order to make positive changes in your life.

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