June is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month: To help spread the word about PTSD and effective treatments, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder—created in 1989 by a congressional mandate to address the needs of veterans with military-related PTSD—offers an online initiative called “AboutFace,” which is focused on helping veterans recognize PTSD symptoms and motivating them to seek treatment (www.ptsd.va.gov/apps/AboutFace/).
The VA’s website explains that PTSD is a type of anxiety disorder that can occur in different ways. It can begin after experiencing extreme trauma like combat exposure, a serious accident, an assault or abuse, natural disasters, or terrorism.
It’s estimated that 20 percent of the soldiers who’ve been deployed in the past six years have PTSD and many others can be experiencing signs of PTSD from previous deployments, according to the VA. It lists the following as possible signs of PTSD:
- Apathy toward loved ones
- Trouble sleeping, reoccurring nightmares
- Experiencing flashbacks, bad memories of the event
- Paranoia, being scared or startled easily, feeling irritable or angry
- Uncomfortable reactions to daily activities, avoiding routine activities
- Not wanting to talk about traumatic events, general feeling of the world being dangerous
- Adverse reactions to crowds, feelings of detachment, emotional numbness, inability to concentrate
The “AboutFace” campaign introduces viewers to veterans from all eras who have experienced PTSD and turned their lives around with treatment. Through personal videos, viewers will meet veterans and hear how PTSD has affected them and their loved ones. They will also learn the steps to take to gain control of their lives.
For some people, treatment can get rid of PTSD altogether. For others, it can make symptoms less intense. Treatment also gives you the tools to manage symptoms so they don’t keep you from living your life.
The VA provides effective PTSD treatment and conducts extensive research on PTSD, including prevention. To learn more, visit www.ptsd.va.gov/about/ptsd-awareness/index.asp and get the VA’s booklet at www.ptsd.va.gov/public/understanding_ptsd/booklet.pdf.
To verify that a counselor or therapist is licensed, visit the website of DCA’s Board of Behavioral Sciences at www.bbs.ca.gov/quick_links/weblookup.shtml. You can also find service referrals and other mental health resources on their website at www.bbs.ca.gov/consumer/awareness.shtml and at the website for the California Department of Veterans Affairs at https://www.calvet.ca.gov/VetServices/Pages/Mental-Health-Program.aspx.
If you’re in crisis, get help right away. If you feel like you might hurt yourself or someone else, call the Veterans Crisis Line at (800) 273-TALK (8255) anytime to talk to a crisis counselor. The call is confidential and free. Chat online with a crisis counselor anytime at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/. You can also call 911 or go to your local emergency room.