(By Fire Chief Matt Love) National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month is observed in June and it ushers in an array of awareness campaigns run for the benefit of PTSD survivors. PTSD occurs in people after they have experienced a particularly traumatic event like war, violent physical/sexual/verbal assault, accidents, and so forth. Symptoms include depression, anxiety, nightmares, paranoia, insomnia, disturbing thoughts, and much more.
Many people recover from PTSD after a few days, weeks, or months. Yet, for others, the recovery road might be much longer. This mental disorder is highly treatable, but due to the lack of knowledge around it as well as the stigma attached to seeking mental help, many choose to ignore the problem and suffer through it.
In 2010, the U.S. Senate declared June 27 to be National PTSD Awareness Day. However, in 2014, it designated the whole month of June to be observed as National PTSD Awareness Month. This was a welcome move by many PTSD organizations and support groups as many felt that more awareness campaigns needed to be held for people to seek help when it came to PTSD. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, one of the most active forerunners in the fight against PTSD, has released a special June calendar that people can download. This special calendar features several activities (like raising awareness on social media through sharing PTSD helplines, articles, subscribing to YouTube channels, finding local PTSD therapists, etc.) aimed to increase awareness and support for PTSD survivors.
PTSD is not a newly recognized mental disorder. The disorder dates back to 50 B.C. when it was described in a poem by Hippocrates. He talks about the experiences of a soldier returning home after a battle. PTSD started gaining more attention after the wars between England and France when many people, civilians and soldiers alike, reported experiencing symptoms like anxiety, insomnia, intrusive and disturbing thoughts, and flashbacks. This continued throughout World War I and World War II, with PTSD being named as ‘Shell Shock’ and ‘Battle Fatigue’, respectively. It was during the 1970s’ Vietnam War that the mental disorder was renamed PTSD. Earlier treatments related to electric shock therapy and other painful options. But today’s modern technology and extensive research have led to much better and effective treatments like group therapy, counseling, and antidepressants.
8% of the population will face PTSD
The National Center for PTSD states that around 7–8% of the population will experience PTSD in their lifetimes.
Women are more likely to suffer from PTSD
Women are twice more likely to suffer from PTSD than men due to a sexual assault/trauma event.
“Big T” and “Small T” types of Trauma
There are two types of trauma and they range in the severity of the causes and triggers: the ‘Big T’ is any type of trauma that has occurred due to a life-threatening situation like wars, natural disasters, physical assault, etc., while the ‘Small t’ is caused due to a disturbing event that is not life-threatening like divorce, abrupt relocation, financial woes, etc.
Trembles are normal after trauma
Experts state that it is completely normal and healthy to experience shivers and trembling after a traumatic, stressful event as it is the body’s way to release all of the excess adrenaline.
PTSD is not just from personal experience
Many people can develop PTSD simply because they heard or witnessed someone else going through a traumatic event.
Please join us in observance of PTSD Awareness Month. You can help spread awareness by offering the following:
Stand with PTSD survivors
PTSD survivors need care, attention, and love. Research shows that people recover faster from illness if they have supporters in the shape of friends and/or family. Be there for them by being informed about their specific symptoms, directing them to professional help, or just lending them an ear.
Learn about PTSD
Research about PTSD’s causes, symptoms, and treatments. You will be better equipped in helping people in the future or even yourself.
Talk about PTSD
The main aim of National PTSD Awareness Month is to spread awareness about it. Talk to your friends and family, go to events related to it, and donate to PTSD organizations if you can afford to. But whatever you choose to do, don’t stop spreading information about the disorder.
By recognizing PTSD and spreading awareness we hope that anyone who suffers from this disorder knows they are not alone and that there are many resources out there to assist in overcoming this horrible disorder.
Chief Love has been the Fort Myers Beach Fire Chief since 2016. In 2019 he was selected by the Fire Chiefs’ Association of Lee County Florida as Fire Chief of the Year, and in 2020 he was named District Manager of the year for the state of Florida by the FASD. He can be reached at the fire department headquarters at 239- 590-4200