Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Healing Invisible Wounds

Traumanoun – a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disordernoun – a condition of persistent mental and emotional stress occurring as a result of injury or severe psychological shock, typically involving a disturbance of sleep and constant vivid recall of the experience, with dulled responses to others and to the outside world.

This week, the Wounded Warrior Run BC (WWRBC) team is running from Port Hardy to Victoria to help raise financial support and awareness of the mental health challenges faced by people experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They are a part of Wounded Warriors Canada, a non-profit helping members of the Canadian Forces who have been wounded or injured in service to their country.

On Friday, February 21, 2014, the run will wrap up at Saunders Subaru, at the end of a run in excess of 600km and 6 full days long. The team will be visiting Legion branches all the way down the length of Vancouver Island. I encourage people to support their efforts – summed up in their motto: Not all wounds are visible. Honour the fallen. Help the living.

It is worth remembering that not all invisible wounds are inflicted in war. Many of our neighbours and friends are lying awake at night, jumping at the sound of a door closing and reliving terrible and terrifying experiences. Too many of these people will succumb to the need to numb the anxiety or the pain of memories, turning to substances which will ultimately only exacerbate their condition. Far too many of them will not seek help because of the associated stigma, fear of reliving the experience, concern around the cost or time that treatment may take, and other reasons.

As many as 1 in 10 Canadians are affected by anxiety disorders, like PTSD; that number may be even higher for our Canadian Armed Forces personnel. What we need is a continuum of mental health services to help people recognize the signs of PTSD and then provide the supports to help them overcome it.

Although our system in British Columbia does not cover the full continuum and access to services is not as open as it could be; there are still some organizations doing very good work with PTSD sufferers.

Below, is a basic list of symptoms experienced by people after a traumatic event. This is not a comprehensive list, only the more common signs. If the symptoms don’t go away, please seek help – ask your doctor or call one of the organizations listed at the end of this post.

PTSD symptoms can include:
·         Feeling upset by things that remind you of the trauma
·         Nightmares, vivid memories or flashbacks of the event
·         Wanting to avoid places or things that remind you of what happened
·         Feeling numb or lose interest in things you used to care about
·         Feeling that you are always in danger
·         Feeling anxious, jittery or irritated
·         Having trouble sleeping or focusing

At the end of this post, you will see links to several organizations, both civilian and military, that provide a range of services and supports to people dealing with the mental health issues categorized as anxiety disorders, of which PTSD is only one.

If you, or someone you know, is showing signs of PTSD, please reach out for help. We all deserve to feel safe.


PTSD Services and Information: