July 20, 2015

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

An astounding number of people-nearly 7.7 million-are affected by Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the U.S.  While progress is being made in recognizing and treating PTSD, unfortunately, far too many cases go undiagnosed.  Greater awareness of PTSD can help ensure that more who suffer from PTSD get the help they need. 

I joined 22 fellow senators in introducing a bipartisan resolution that designated June as National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Month and June 27, 2015, as National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day.  The objective of the resolution, which the Senate passed unanimously, is to raise awareness about PTSD-related issues, reduce the stigma associated with PTSD and help ensure that those suffering from the invisible wounds of war receive proper treatment.

As reflected in the resolution, the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) reported that in 2014 alone more than 535,000 of those who sought care at a VA medical facility received treatment for PTSD.  While military trauma can cause PTSD, a psychological response to a traumatic event, there are a number of other traumatic experiences that can lead to PTSD.  The VA provides four categories of symptoms:

  • Reliving the event (Examples:  nightmares, flashbacks);
  • Avoiding situations that prompt reminders of the event (Examples:  avoiding crowds, because they feel dangerous);
  • Negative changes in beliefs and feelings, which include changes in the way a person thinks about themselves and others because of the trauma (Examples:  not having positive feelings toward other people and staying away from relationships);
  • Feeling keyed up (Examples:  being jittery, always on the lookout for danger, sudden anger or irritability, having trouble sleeping and concentrating). 

PTSD symptoms can start soon after the traumatic event, not happen until months or years after the trauma or come and go over many years.  The Department of Veterans Affairs suggests keeping track of symptoms, talking with someone you trust about them and seeking professional help from a doctor or counselor.

Resources are available in Idaho to assist with PTSD:

  • All VA Medical Centers provide PTSD care http://www.boise.va.gov/.
  • The Boise VA Medical Center hosts the Trauma Symptom Management (PTSD) Group weekly to assist veterans with managing symptoms associated with exposure to traumatic events http://www.boise.va.gov/docs/Group_Guide4-15.pdf
  • Vet Centersin Boise and Pocatello help with the transition from military to civilian life.
  • PTSD Coach mobile appis a free download for iPhone or Android devices to help Veteran's manage PTSD symptoms.
  • Through the Veterans Crisis Line, veterans are able to receive confidential support 24/7, Chat online at http://www.VeteransCrisisLine.net, 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1), Text 838255.
  • Veteran Combat Call Centeris a 24/7 line to talk to another combat Veteran, 1-877-927-8387.
  • U.S. Department of Defense Centers of Excellenceprovides information and helps locate resources, 866-966-1020 , Live Chat: realwarriors.net/livechat , Email: resources@dcoeoutreach.
  • National Center for PTSD http://www.ptsd.va.gov/.
  • PTSD Consultation Program http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/consult/index.aspis for providers who treats veterans with PTSD.

These are just some of the resources available to assist with PTSD, and often the assistance is provided at no financial cost to veterans.  A number of non-government organizations also offer PTSD assistance.  Those who serve our nation more than deserve access to high-quality services to ensure their wellbeing.  Awareness of the symptoms and resources available to the millions of Americans struggling with PTSD can help ensure that more Americans do not suffer in silence.

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