Mental health awareness event focuses on PTSD

Contributed Photo Courtesy Rosa Contrereas: Keith Hamblin, of the Tucson Vet Center, gives a presentation on understanding PTSD.

By Brooke Curley

SAFFORD – It’s not something that they want to talk about, but Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) shapes the reality of many of those who have served in the military.

On Friday, multiple speakers gave presentations on mental health at a public event at the General Services Building. Keith Hamblin, of the Tucson Vet Center, gave a presentation about understanding PTSD and seeking aid. Other presentations varied in topics, with one based toward parents in order to prevent childhood drug use.

The event was directed by Rosa Contreras, Graham County Substance Abuse Coalition project coordinator and leader of its Military Prevention Subcommittee. Contreras told Gila Valley Central that the Military Prevention Subcommittee aims to aid the veterans in the community, and that she hopes to have another event in the months to come.

“The main thing we’re learning how to do is mainly help the veterans in our community (by) bringing more resources, training (and) information,” Contreras said. “I would like to plan another event possibly in the next upcoming months. It’s just about getting a response from our community about what kind of information, trainings and resources they would like to know about in conjunction with providing education (and) awareness.”

Although the event has passed, Contreras told Gila Valley Central that the coalition is always looking for people to become involved.

“Were always looking for volunteers,” Contreras said. “We’re always looking for people who want to be a part of it.”

What is PTSD

PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) 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.

It’s normal to have upsetting memories, feel on edge or have trouble sleeping after this type of event. At first, it may be hard to do normal daily activities, like go to work, go to school or spend time with people you care about. But most people start to feel better after a few weeks or months.

If it’s been longer than a few months and you’re still having symptoms, you may have PTSD. For some people, PTSD symptoms may start later on or they may come and go over time.

What factors affect who develops PTSD?

PTSD can happen to anyone. It is not a sign of weakness. 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, having a very intense or long-lasting traumatic event or getting injured during the event can make it more likely that a person will develop PTSD. PTSD is also more common after certain types of trauma, like combat and sexual assault.

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

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event, but they may not appear until months or years later. They also may come and go over many years. If the symptoms last longer than four weeks, cause you great distress or interfere with your work or home life, you might have PTSD.

There are four types of symptoms of PTSD but they may not be exactly the same for everyone. Each person experiences symptoms in their own way.

Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms). You may have bad memories or nightmares. You even may feel like you’re going through the event again. This is called a flashback.

Avoiding situations that remind you of the event. You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event.

Having more negative beliefs and feelings. The way you think about yourself and others may change because of the trauma. You may feel guilt or shame. Or, you may not be interested in activities you used to enjoy. You may feel that the world is dangerous and you can’t trust anyone. You might be numb or find it hard to feel happy.

Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal). You may be jittery or always alert and on the lookout for danger. Or, you may have trouble concentrating or sleeping. You might suddenly get angry or irritable, startle easily or act in unhealthy ways (like smoking, using drugs and alcohol or driving recklessly.

Treatment of PTSD

Today, there are good treatments available for PTSD. When you have PTSD, dealing with the past can be hard. Instead of telling others how you feel, you may keep your feelings bottled up. But talking with a therapist can help you get better.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one type of counseling. Research shows it is the most effective type of counseling for PTSD. The VA is providing two forms of cognitive behavioral therapy to Veterans with PTSD: Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) and Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy.

There is a similar kind of therapy called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) that is used for PTSD. Also, medications have been shown to be effective. A type of drug known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which is also used for depression, is effective for PTSD.

Source: US Department of Veteran Affairs