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Advocates aim to raise awareness, lift stigma of PTSD in June
Advocates aim to raise awareness, lift stigma of PTSD in JuneAdvocates aim to raise awareness, lift stigma of PTSD in June

Advocates aim to raise awareness, lift stigma of PTSD in June

Service members can experience PTSD even when they have not been in a combat situation. June is PTSD Awareness Month, and advocates for treatment are hoping service members and veterans alike reach out for help. (U.S. Air Force illustration by Alex Pena)

By Rindi White

Three million cases of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, are treated in the United States alone each year, according to data from the Mayo Clinic. With treatment, the outlook is hopeful: PTSD is considered a medium-term illness that resolves within a few months. Left untreated, it can be crippling or even deadly.

June is PTSD Awareness Month. PTSD, a disorder characterized by failure to recover after experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event (according to the Mayo Clinic), may affect anyone who has experienced serious trauma or a life-threatening event. But the disorder affects a higher percentage of military members than civilians, in part because life-threatening situations are commonplace for military.

About 60 percent of men and 50 percent of women have experienced some sort of traumatic event in their lives, according to a PTSD Awareness presentation (https://www.ptsd.va.gov/about/ptsd-awareness/PTSD_Awareness_PPT.pptx) from the Veterans Health Administration. That can mean anything from war zone exposure to physical or sexual assault, serious accidents, child sexual or physical abuse, natural disasters or torture.

About 7 percent of adults develop PTSD in their lifetime. For veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom, the number is higher: between 10 and 18 percent, based on several factors, including whether the combat veteran was in the National Guard or Reserve and whether he or she served in Iraq or Afghanistan. That’s according to information presented in an article on PTSD Research Quarterly, “PTSD in Service Members and New Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars: A Bibliography and Critique,” by Brett T. Litz and William E. Schlenger.

Who might develop PTSD depends on many factors, including individual histories of prior trauma or other prior adversities; a history of other psychiatric disorders; demographic characteristics such as gender, age, minority status and education level; and genetic factors, as well as details about the traumatic event — whether it was intentional, such as combat, assault or abuse, or unintentional, such as a disaster or accident. The recovery environment also plays a part in whether a person develops PTSD; lack of social support, stressful life events and new trauma can exacerbate the effects of the traumatic event.

The National Center for PTSD has a wealth of information available to promote PTSD Awareness at its website, https://www.ptsd.va.gov. Curious if you have PTSD? The National Center for PTSD offers a self-screen test through which you can learn if your symptoms suggest you should talk to a mental health care provider (https://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/treatment/therapy-med/what-if-think-have-ptsd.asp). The website also has suggestions for helping a family member who has PTSD and a wide range of information to help people understand PTSD and its treatment.

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