Teaching your Community about PTSD
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a serious issue. An estimated 24.4 million people in the U.S. are dealing with PTSD at any given time. To promote awareness for this common mental health concern, June 27th has been designated National PTSD Awareness Day. Additionally, the National Center for PTSD has made June PTSD Awareness Month.
What is PTSD?
PTSD affects people after they have experienced a traumatic event. PTSD sufferers' mental health continues to be affected by the event, even long after the event has passed. Traumatic events that can lead to PTSD can happen one time, or be on-going. Examples include military combat, sexual assault, natural disasters, abuse, habitual neglect, witnessing a death, and violent car accidents.
Some symptoms of PTSD include:
Mentally reliving the event. PTSD sufferers may feel the same emotions they did while in the traumatic situation. Nightmares are also common.
Avoiding anything to do with the traumatic event. This can include avoiding situations that remind them of the event, refusing to talk about it, or forgetting all or parts of what happened.
Developing a negative attitude. A switch in personality after a traumatic event can indicate the possibility of PTSD.
Acting "on edge". People who suffer from PTSD may feel they need to be alert at all times. Sufferers may also find it hard to relax or sleep. They may startle easily and be quick to anger.
A few Surprising Facts about PTSD
Approximately 70% of U.S. adults experience a severe trauma in their lifetime, and 60-80% of them will develop PTSD.
Women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with PTSD. An estimated one out of 10 women will develop PTSD in her lifetime.
One in three members of the military will develop PTSD after they come home, but less than 40 percent of those afflicted will seek psychiatric help.
PTSD sufferers are more likely to misuse alcohol or drugs than the general population. Unfortunately, suicide is common for PTSD sufferers. An estimated 33.6 percent of people with PTSD are classified as at-risk for suicide.
The New York Times reported in 2012 that more active-duty military personnel committed suicide than died in combat.
In many cases, PTSD manifests a number of health-related issues that interfere with one's quality of life. Like the disorder itself, the related troubles can occur immediately, or show up many years later. Problems can occur such as:
Alcohol and drug misuse
General and social anxiety disorder
Outbursts of anger
Ways to Educate Others about PTSD
Raising awareness can help people recognize the signs and symptoms of PTSD and seek help accordingly. It's important to encourage individuals with PTSD and their loved ones to seek professional help when dealing with this complex issue. Here are some ways you can raise awareness of PTSD in your organization.
Active Awareness Campaigns
Active awareness campaigns can include hosting a guest speaker to give a presentation about PTSD or possibly their own experience with PTSD, or it can be interactive events like a 5k run/walk, raffle, or golf tournament. Getting your participants involved in the event gives the cause a special place in their heart, and it gives you an opportunity to raise donations for worthy organizations that help with PTSD.
Passive Awareness Campaigns
You can also raise awareness using passive campaigns, like using social media by sharing a message about PTSD and a link to learn more about the disorder. To raise awareness on a more local level, posters, displays, and educational giveaways do a great job of raising awareness in the community and can put important resources in the hands of those who need them.
Where can you Raise Awareness for PTSD?
Due to repeated exposure to traumatic events during war, PTSD is more common in military personnel. Once called "shell shock" or battle fatigue, today PTSD affects 30% of Vietnam veterans, and 11-20% of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. One in three returning troops are diagnosed with PTSD, but less than 40% seek help. Awareness should be geared toward both members of the armed forces and their families. However, PTSD doesn't just affect the military. It's also a vital topic to address for schools, universities, health care providers, businesses, and other organizations. This can be done by providing a combination of active and passive campaigns to support people with PTSD and their loved ones.
How can we Help PTSD Sufferers?
Generating awareness for PTSD can help sufferers find positive ways to deal with the powerful emotions they face. Beyond raising awareness, one of the best ways to help PTSD sufferers is simply to let them know they're not alone. Give caring support to loved ones with PTSD while providing gentle guidance towards seeking professional help.
For help, contact the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 press 1