Although the term “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” dates to only 1980, the condition it describes is timeless.
Descriptions of soldiers with PTSD date back to ancient Greece and Rome. During World War I, PTSD was called “shell shock.” In World War II it was called “combat fatigue.” The development of PTSD is not the result of weakness or failure on the part of a military service person. It is the result of them experiencing a set of circumstances. This June, during PTSD Awareness Month, join me in spreading the word about PTSD and effective treatment options.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that of the 1.7 million veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, approximately 18 percent suffer from PTSD. These individuals continue to have troubling thoughts and feelings about one or more traumatic event that lasts long after the event has ended. They may experience flashbacks, nightmares, sadness, fear, anger and detachment from others. Frequently, individuals with PTSD will avoid situations and people that may remind them of the traumatic event.
Unfortunately, according to a report released in February, approximately half of all veterans who need mental health care don’t get it due to not knowing they need help, that they are eligible for services, or because of the perceived stigma attached to mental health conditions. Finally, although most people assume that veterans are automatically enrolled in the Veterans Administration when they complete their military service, this is not the case. As a result, veterans often need assistance finding VA facilities, navigating the complicated and sometimes long application process, and appealing rejected claims.
Almost 13,000 veterans live in St. Clair County, and many experience some of these same obstacles to receiving mental health care. Because of this, St. Clair County Community Mental Health applied for and received a grant to fund a Veteran’s Navigator, Wendy Martindale, who works to link veterans in our community with needed services such as housing, medical assistance, employment and mental health services. Wendy works closely with the St. Clair County Department of Veteran’s Affairs to assist eligible individuals in navigating the process to secure health care, employment opportunities, disability compensation, housing grants, pensions, veteran-specific education and training, emergency grants, and even survivor’s benefits.
American veterans risk their lives and put their futures in jeopardy to protect the rest of us. It is our duty to honor them for their service and be there for them. The next time you see a veteran, thank them for their service! If you are a veteran in need of assistance, please call us. You do not need to qualify for SCCCMH services in order to work with our Veteran’s Navigator.
While PTSD is most commonly associated with military veterans, the disorder can affect civilians as well. PTSD can be caused by any life-threatening event, such as a natural disaster, car accident, or assault. It is estimated that 50 percent of the general public has experienced at least one traumatic event during their lifetime, and that number jumps to 80 percent or more among people who receive public mental health services.
Treatment for non-combat PTSD and trauma include Prolonged Exposure Therapy, which is the gold standard of treatment. SCCCMH offers PET, as well as several other evidence-based practices to help people who have a history of trauma, including Eye Movement Desensitization and Preprocessing, Seeking Safety, and Trauma Recovery and Empowerment Model. Our trauma-informed care initiatives began in 2016 and are built on the five core values of safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration and empowerment. Through grant funding, SCCCMH is able to provide TREM group therapy free of charge to individuals who may not qualify for public mental health services.
PTSD causes lasting changes in the areas of the brain responsible for regulating emotion, thought and memory. The good news is that treatment is available and recovery is possible. The help is free, and can be accessed by calling our hotline at (888) 225-4447.