PTSD Awareness Day is observed every year on June 27th. Why on this date? It’s because it was the birthday of Army Staff Sgt. Joe Biel of the North Dakota National Guard.
Biel suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and tragically took his own life in 2007. To honor his memory, as well as the millions of others who have struggled with PTSD, the United States established PTSD Awareness Day.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that occurs in both children and adults after experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event like an accident, physical/sexual/emotional abuse, natural disaster, or war. When not treated it can lead to risk factors like anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.
According to the PTSD Foundation of America, it’s estimated that 7.8 percent of Americans will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. For service members who have spent any amount of time in war zones, roughly 30 percent experience PTSD. And, unfortunately, only 50 percent of PTSD sufferers seek treatment.
While the symptoms vary from person to person, it’s not uncommon for those who have been through a traumatic event to have difficulty adjusting and coping. Usually, this is only temporary and with time and self-care, they will improve.
For others, PTSD symptoms may get to the point where they interfere with your daily life. Often, PTSD symptoms fall into the falling categories;
Intrusive memories such as nightmares, flashbacks, reliving the event, or emotional distress/physical reactions to something that reminds them of the traumatic event.
Avoidance like not thinking or discussing the trauma, as well as anything that reminds them of the event.
Negative changes in thinking and mood such as hopelessness, memory problems, and becoming detached from family, friends, and activities that were once enjoyed.
Changes in physical and emotional reactions like being easily frightened, irritability, feeling guilty, angry outbursts, and insomnia.
Substance abuse, mainly relying on drugs or alcohol to cope.
These symptoms may begin to manifest within a month after the traumatic event. And, if you or someone you know are experiencing increasingly intensifying symptoms talk to your doctor or mental health professional.
If you’re having suicidal thoughts, immediately contact a close friend or family member. Or, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
Common PTSD Treatments
If there is any welcome news it’s that PTSD can be treated. Usually, this is through different types of therapy and medications.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to improve the symptoms, teach coping skills, and restoring self-esteem.
Cognitive processing therapy is a 12-week course treatment where you talk about the traumatic event with a therapist and then write in detail what happened. This process can help you examine the trauma and figure out ways to live with it.
Prolonged exposure therapy helps confront the event and even what you associate with it in eight to 15 sessions that are usually 90 minutes each.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing is where you move your hand, make a sound, or flash a light instead of talking with the goal to think about something positive while remembering the trauma. This can take about 3 months.
Stress inoculation training is a type of CBT that focuses more on changing how you deal with the stress from the event.
Medications can be described by a doctor to help you stop thinking about and reacting to what happened. And, they may also help alleviate fear and anxiety. Some common medications include Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, or Effexor
How to Observe PTSD Awareness Day
For starters, you can help reduce the stigma by asking for help if you’ve gone through a traumatic experience. It’s not a sign of weakness. Or, if you know someone who struggles with PTSD, educate yourself and reach out to them just to remind them that you’re there for them.
And, if you want to get more involved, you can find opportunities to volunteer over at the PTSD Foundation of America.