Tomorrow, we recognize National PTSD Awareness Day, a day dedicated to creating awareness of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). The U.S. Senate designated June 27 as National PTSD Awareness Day in 2010, and the National Center for PTSD named June PTSD Awareness Month. I encourage you to utilize this time to learn more about PTSD and effective treatment options. Raising awareness about PTSD is incredibly important, as awareness leads to understanding and empathy; banishes judgement and fear; and reduces the number of people who feel alone and suffer in silence. Below, you’ll find useful information on how to approach PTSD with your consumers.

What is PTSD?
People may develop PTSD when they are exposed or witness something traumatic, such as war, physical violence, sexual violence, automobile accidents, etc.

What are some common symptoms of PTSD?
After such events, a person may begin suffering from certain symptoms – if they were unable to process what happened to them or what they witnessed. These symptoms might include:
● Disturbing memories or thoughts
● Nightmares
● Having trouble sleeping
● Feeling irritable or angry
● Having trouble concentrating
● Feeling hypervigilant or on guard for fear of danger
● Experiencing flashback memories

Who can develop PTSD?
Anyone can develop PTSD at any age. A number of factors can increase the chance that someone will have PTSD, many of which are not under that person’s control. For example, it’s more likely a person will develop PTSD if they experienced an intense or long-lasting traumatic event or if they became injured during said event. PTSD is also more common after certain types of trauma, such as combat and sexual assault.

Personal factors like previous traumatic exposure, age and gender can also affect whether or not a person will develop PTSD. What happens after the traumatic event also plays a role. Stress can make PTSD more likely, while social support can make it less likely.

How can PTSD impact someone’s family and their relationships?
PTSD includes a range of symptoms that can affect family members. When someone has PTSD, their ability to function as a parent or partner can be impacted, and changes in their functioning can lead to unmet family needs and increased stress within the family.

Trauma survivors with PTSD may also have trouble with their close family relationships or friendships. The symptoms of PTSD can cause problems with trust, closeness, communication and problem solving. In turn, this may impact the way a loved one responds to the trauma survivor.

Why is it important to be aware of trauma and possible PTSD symptoms when working with our consumers?
There are a number of reasons why we, as mental health and behavioral health care providers, should assess our consumers for a history of trauma exposure.
● Trauma and trauma-related problems are common. Going through trauma is not rare. According to the National Center for PTSD, about six out of 10 men (or 60%) and five out of 10 women (or 50%) experience at least one traumatic event in their lives. Nearly 8% of the population has PTSD, and it’s highly comorbid with other disorders, such as panic, phobia, generalized anxiety disorders, depression or substance abuse.

● PTSD is often underrecognized by practitioners. Research shows that many individuals who seek physical health care have been exposed to trauma and have post-traumatic stress symptoms but have not received appropriate mental health care. As with anxiety disorders and depression, most individuals with PTSD are not properly identified and are not offered education, counseling or referrals for mental health evaluation. Keep in mind that avoidance of trauma reminders is a prominent symptom of PTSD. This makes it even more likely that consumers may not spontaneously report their trauma experiences or related symptoms.

● School-aged children may present different symptoms than adults. If diagnosed with PTSD, the symptoms in children and teens can look different from those in adults. Children could show signs of PTSD in their play – while teenagers might show signs of impulsivity. Children may not have flashbacks or problems remembering parts of the trauma the way adults with PTSD often do. As in adults, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy is considered to be an effective treatment.

National PTSD Awareness Day is so important, but it’s only one day. We need to support the individuals we serve throughout the year and work to reduce the stigma associated with PTSD. Raising awareness is about educating people who do not experience PTSD and reaching out to people who do.

Kristyn Maikranz
Director of Mental Health