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New York, NY – June 27, is dedicated to raising awareness about PTSD — Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Although combat stress dates back centuries, PTSD was only characterized in the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) — the standard for healthcare professionals in the United States and much of the world — in 1980.

Ben Kimmel.

PTSD, we now now, extends far beyond any battlefield. It is, in fact, a very common disorder where a person has difficulty recovering after witnessing or experiencing some kind of traumatizing event. 

Respected professionals recognize PTSD as a moral injury in which a person sees, feels or experiences a tragedy that goes against their fundamental moral codes. Troubling experiences can include specific events, assaults or accidents. Symptoms may typically include nightmares, visual or audible hallucinations, social avoidance, irritability and intense emotional or physical reactions. 

In recognizing PTSD Awareness Day, we acknowledge the struggle, as well as the ability to treat those suffering and in need of help. Treatment is available and recovery is possible. However, to treat a disorder, it is important to understand the disorder. 

PTSD can last months or years. Indeed, for those who do not seek help, PTSD can last a lifetime. 

The disorder can strike anyone, especially those who have witnessed ongoing traumatic events — such as essential healthcare workers who were forced to make life and death decisions in the heat of the pandemic.

“It was like having to play God” a member of the New York State Nurses Association once told me. “Who do you choose: the 50-year-old or the 75-year-old? Or the 36-year-old who has a young family? All of this happened at the same time. This is what it was like. Everyone went into code at the same time. So who do you help first?”

Decisions like this are comparable to any crisis seen in war — only in this case, instead of bombs and mortars, the enemy was a virus.

Physical, emotional and sexual abuse can also trigger PTSD. Without help, the disorder can cause lifelong challenges and psychological difficulties. If left untreated, mental health disorders can lead to chronic loneliness, anger management issues and severe depression. Still, too many people with this or any mental health disorder often fail to reach out for help. That’s why national awareness days like today are both important and helpful in helping to end the stigmatization associated with mental health issues.

Rather than judge or compare scars to see whose PTSD is worse or even real, days like today are dedicated to the realization that everyone is recovering from something. No one has the right to judge someone else’s trauma. Therefore, it is lifesaving to note that there is support. There is help, there is no need to feel shame, and there is no reason to go through this alone.

If you or someone you know is facing a challenge due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, reach out for help. Look for the appropriate levels of professional care. Or, call 1-800-273-8255. Help is standing by.

Ben Kimmel is a proud member of the IUOE Local 94, as well as an Author, Writer on thewrittenaddiction.com, Mental Health First Aid Instructor, Wellbeing and DEI Content Provider, Certified Addiction and Recovery Coach, Certified Professional Life Coach, and Peer & Wellness Advocate.  Ben can be reached at bennyk1972@gmail.com

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