June is PTSD Awareness Month

Written on by Olga Antonyuk & Valerie Melroy

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault. Often during these types of events, the person does not have any control over what is happening, and they may feel very afraid. In addition to a life-threatening event, a series of traumatic experiences can cause PTSD, such as with a child who experiences multiple Adverse Childhood Experiences (divorce, neglect, incarcerated parent, loss of a caregiver, mental health and/or addictions in the home, etc.). We may see a rise in PTSD diagnoses based on this past COVID-19 year with all of the challenges, fears, isolations, and losses, which may have increased trauma events and experiences for a large number of people worldwide.     

Symptoms of PTSD may start soon after the traumatic event or for some individuals many years later. Some of the common symptoms among those having PTSD are upsetting or intrusive memories; avoidance of talk/people/places related to the event(s); negative changes in thinking and mood such as hopelessness about the future, memory loss, feeling detached from family and friends; changes in physical and emotional reactions like having trouble sleeping, nightmares, anger, responding to loud noises, trouble concentrating, and feelings of overwhelming guilt and shame. PTSD may be accompanied by other behavioral health challenges like depression, anxiety, and addictions. A few things to note: there are other symptoms not mentioned here, symptoms can come and go, and each person must be assessed and treated according to their needs as no two people are the same.   

PTSD is treatable, and people can and do recover from PTSD. Some of the treatments most used are psychotherapy (such as Cognitive; Exposure; Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), medications, and teaching coping mechanisms. Some therapists integrate physical movement, and some incorporate spiritual/faith interventions too. 

When someone has PTSD, it may be hard to feel safe and be around others. Sometimes this can be overcome by interfacing with others who have similar traumatic experiences as in the case of Veterans connecting to other Veterans. There have been a lot of discussions on the impact of trauma on Veterans and the number of Veterans who die by suicide each day (17.6-2018). In one major study of 60,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, 13.5% of deployed and nondeployed veterans screened positive for PTSD, while other studies show the rate to be as high as 20% to 30%. The effect of PTSD transcends the Veteran/individual, it can significantly impact the person’s family/friends too. Therefore, family/friends/supporters can be included in education, recovery, and healing interventions as well.     

Local providers and agencies have participated in “trauma-informed care” trainings, which should help staff working in the behavioral health and intellectual disability systems to offer treatment and create an environment that helps people heal and does not further traumatize anyone. Voice and Vision, Inc. participated in a lot of these trainings and believes we can be a part of the solution by offering innovative services and by cultivating education, support, and advocacy in our communities.

One service Voice and Vision began offering to Veterans in 2018 is CompeerCORPs, a friendship model of help and hope connecting volunteer Veterans to Veterans with mental health challenges. You can read more about CompeerCORRPs here: https://voiceandvisioninc.org/compeercorps/. The Director of CompeerCORPs, Jonathan Bittner, told his story of PTSD for the Philadelphia Eagles Series: How Operation Ward 57 Helps Veterans Cope | Eagles Road To Victory. Jonathan has accomplished so much since the filming of his story. He just graduated with his MS in Psychology, and in the fall he starts his Doctor of Psychology Degree at Holy Family University. Please watch the video of Jonathan’s journey here:

In honor of PTSD Awareness Month, Voice and Vision is hosting the upcoming workshop “Seek, Don’t Hide,” a searching and fearless moral inventory. This workshop focuses on exploring our purpose each day. The workshop will help build healthy habits through information, resources, and strategies to improve your well-being. The workshop is scheduled for Wednesday, June 30th, from 12-1:30 pm. To learn more and register for the workshop, please visit the Eventbrite link provided below. We hope you can join us!



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Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

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