Increasing PTSD Rates ~How Can We Help Those Who Serve and Protect Us Every Day?
Survivors Guilt is One of the Hardest Things to Accept
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is a growing issue in America. According to PTSD United, 70% of Americans have suffered some sort of trauma in their life. Of those Americans 20% or 44.7 million Americans have PTSD. At any given moment 24.4 million Americans, or the population of Texas, deals with PTSD. The statistics are staggering. It’s no wonder there is an increase rate of suicide in America. Fortunately there are many resources available to assist people living with PTSD.
Trying to Navigate Helping the One You Love
Personally I believe, as a family member, this is incredibly hard to understand. The main reason being that some days are good and some are not. Trying to decipher what is a good day and what is a bad day is normal life. Understanding, what makes the bad day a cause for concern is not always easy. I know there have been times when my eyebrow has gone up. But then there are times when all the stars align and the world seems perfect. Perhaps it boils down how well you know the individual. For me, it’s a little easier because I’m married to a talker. When he’s ready he talks about things. Talking has to come when the person is ready, not because we would like them to get over it.
Get over it sounds bad. I know. However, many people look at trauma like something that you deal with and then get on with your life. Admittedly, that is my attitude. At least it use to be. Being around the military community particularly has shown me, a soldier at heart does not merely forget someone who was lost. Just as I would assume doctors, nurses, cops, EMT or firefighters don’t. Another thing I have become acutely aware of if survivors guilt. Unfortunately, we will never know why someone was sparred, while another was not. I always say, you were saved because your purpose in life hasn’t been fulfilled. But what I’ve also learned, seeing the silver liner isn’t always easy.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is very close to my heart. Anyone who witnesses or lives among trauma has the ability to develop PTSD. Living among a military community, I’ve known more than my share of soldiers living with this disorder. Unfortunately, some never find the proper resources to assist them in working through their grief. Ultimately, they feel suicide is the only escape. That is why I’m grateful for organizations like Motorcycle Mission.
This weekend Ron and I will be volunteer at Motorcycle Mission. There are many ways to deal with trauma and it is not a one size fits all. Motorcycle Missions is based in Austin, Texas and we will be volunteering with them in the hopes of reaching others who suffer from PTSD. Volunteering is a great way to deal with trauma. I believe, for Ron, this is one way he can be around and reach out to others who need assistance.
Motorcycle Mission was started by Krystal who has dealt herself with PTSD.
“Krystal is a pediatric and surgical nurse who found motorcycles while suffering from PTSD after escaping domestic violence in her marriage and witnessing a loved one’s suicide attempt. She turned her tragedy into triumph through motorcycling, and she’s now well known for her powder-coating and customization business, Ricochet Customs.”
Motorcycle Missions is a great foundation if you are in the central Texas area. Unfortunately, Krystal cannot be everywhere in America. For that reason I’ve included a lot of additional sources.
PTSD Doesn’t Just Affect the Military
While many of us probably associate PTSD with the military, anyone can develop PTSD. In fact, first responders such as police, fire, EMT, doctors and nurses to name but a few. According to Make the Connection early symptoms include nightmares, flashbacks, emotionally distant, loss of interest and being irritated or angry. Individually, these may not sound all that disturbing. However, if coupled together it certainly is a cause for concern. As I said, I’ve seen PTSD first hand and it is quite difficult to deal with. It’s a little like Bi-polar. One minute the individual may be fine, but something will trigger a memory and that can change the course of the day.
If you or someone you know is suffering from PTSD Make the Connection also has video clips of service members discussing what helps them deal with the pain. Some, more than others are able to allow others into their experience. My recommendation would be not to force the situation. In my situation, the conversation came gradually and in short spurts. Try to remember, in order to talk about it, the person has to relive it. Likely that will not be easy.
Resiliency is The Best Way to Combat Trauma
According to the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation there are many ways we can combat PTSD. One of the easiest ways is being resilient. A few such ways are being realistic about life. Face your fears. Utilize our moral compass, seek out and accept social support. For many of us this area is not easy. It’s very hard for us as humans to admit when we need help. Please do not let that be a barrier in your recovery. Another fantastic way to remain resilient is by staying physically fit and mentally strong. If you are in need, the first step is reaching out.
I think as humans we always wonder why certain events affect people in different ways. Well, it’s not as big of mystery as we may think. We’ve all met the person who tells you their life story as soon as you meet them. Adversely, we’ve all known someone for years and barely know their last name. The sociable talk-a-holic is going to be more resilient. As a result of their many social interactions they deal with what happens to them without even thinking about it.
Brain and Behavior Research Foundation is a fantastic website. For anyone seeking information about who can develop PTSD, why they get it and what can be done to deal with it. Anxiety and Depression Society of America has a lot of great information on spotting symptoms and diagnosis. Many of us do not realize it, but children can develop PTSD. Should you need additional information regarding children and PTSD. Regardless of the age of anyone dealing with PTSD, having the proper resources can make all the difference in the world.
Anxiety and Depression Society of America https://www.adaa.org/screening-posttraumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd has a wonderful resource to self-diagnose. At least in the way that you can understand if there is cause for concern. There is also a link to find a therapist in your area. The survey contains 24 questions and will only take a few minutes to complete. The site also includes links for webinars, peer-to-peer interaction and the ability to donate.
Services for Our Military
If you’ve served or are serving in the military, or suspect someone you know may have PTSD, the PTSD Foundation of America http://ptsdusa.org/get-help/first-responders/ptsd-assessment-form/ has an online checklist to assist in evaluating the possibility. The online form allows the individual to input their name location and branch of service. The site contains a wonderful array of resources as well.
The PTSD Foundation of America also has a faith based radio show http://ptsdusa.org/warrior-shield-radio/ . I pulled this information from their site.
“The Mission of Warrior’s Shield Radio is to reach out to our Military and Veteran community and their families from a faith based perspective with real, practical help. We understand that when a person serves in the military, their family serves along with them. We will discuss how families can cope with military service; reintegrating men and women into civilian life, how to find a job, PTSD, other military issues and in all of these things the importance of growing closer to God. Warrior Shield Radio is hosted by David Maulsby Sunday nights from 5:06 pm to 6 pm on 100.7 FM The Word KKHT and kkht.com. You can also like, follow and send us question us on Facebook.”
First Responders Live and Breathe Trauma
Many of us do not think about the trauma first responders’ face in everyday life. For each first responder, their daily lives encapsulate trauma. Personally, I have never given much thought to first responders. I’ve always thought of them as one, doing a job they love, and two, being equipped to deal with trauma. This may or may not be true. Like anyone else they are human. However, because of the career path they’ve taken trauma is an everyday occurrence. Over time, without even noticing the trauma compiles until it’s crippling. Just like our service members, first responders need the same love and support.
One of the most important things to remember is there is no recovery in getting drunk, drugs or isolation. Often with first responders isolation is an early indicator, but certainly not the only one to be aware of. Let’s help ensure their safety and happiness, so they can help assure ours. There are many resources for first responders such as The Trauma Center and the On-Site Academy firstname.lastname@example.org . As a best practice, if work fatigue is setting in, find an outlet to release the stress. If possible find an athletic outlet.
According to EMS World suicide rates are 25% higher than the general population. What seems like a small injury or set back has the ability to compile into a much larger issue. Over time a personal issue compiled with continuous trauma can contribute to hopelessness. The site includes many resources for civilian PTSD sources, preventing provider suicide and a portrait of a responder.
The portrait of a responder is a true life seen recreated by a fellow EMS Daniel Sundahl who recreates the scene. While described as emergency response portraits, this is nothing less than photo journalism at its best. I don’t want to lose you here, I do have a point. I check out his site. His recreations caption so perfectly the emotion involved in a trauma. I’m not one for emotion, but his depiction of trauma brought a tear to my eye. Perhaps this is how he deals with the trauma he encounters on a daily basis.
Navigating Helping or Hurting
Trauma is so difficult. At what point is there a balance between helping and hurting? As Ron has been transitioning out of the Army via the Warrior Transition Unit here at Ft. Hood, he’s encountered
some bumps. Just yesterday I attended an FTR with him. I’d be lying if I said I knew what the acronym stood for, but the gist is that it’s to ensure him success after the military. I was glad to be there. The counselor, who thinks she knows better than him agitated him for no reason. What she wanted was for him to set goals. To say there were things he needed to accomplish. While I certainly understand they’re soldiers transitioning from the Army who do not know what the next step is. This is not the case with Ron.
When Goal Setting is Too Much
What she wanted was a family goal and a defined religion. Ron didn’t have a family goal. We do not have any problems to be of concern. Certainly our family goal at this point is becoming grandparents. Understand, we have no control there. As a spouse this bothered me. Why is she trying to create a problem where one doesn’t exist? She decided to input lake house. I needn’t tell you that is not really family. But I let her have it. Anything to get her off Ron’s back.
Thou Shall Not Force Religion
Next up was religion. He said agnostic. She immediately stated that isn’t a religion. I said, yeah. It’s lack of having a religion. She insisted he must have one. She proceeded to say that he had a soul and therefore should have a religion. Potato, pototo. As I’ve said many times I’m a Messianic Jew and Ron is well informed on the ways of God. If he chooses to not define it, certainly I will not be the one to force it. Religion, in my opinion, comes when the receiver is ready. But forcing the issue as she did, she put motorcycle. I kid you not. She defined it as “something he enjoys.” I have to say, I learned a new definition for religion.
My point of the story is this. If you know someone who is suffering, try to be patient helping them navigate the world. Pushing your agenda on them will not help. All this counselor did was add to Ron’s stress. She made him feel like he wasn’t doing enough. He already has a job and he won’t be out of the military for another 4-5 months. Some days, he has a hard time walking. Get off his back for cripes sake.
Ron is a grown boy. He certainly doesn’t need me sticking up for him. However, the big dog fights when you rattle its cage. She agitated me too, and I wasn’t going to keep quiet. I wasn’t about to sit there until she made him feel bad about his choices. My recommendation is to make suggestions. Don’t belittle and act as if you know more about their needs than they do. Certainly that will not help.
PTSD Foundation of America Hotline and Crisis Numbers