Perhaps Donald Trump has given us all an opportunity to better understand a serious mental health issue. I believe that his comments about PTSD have, in a upside down sort of way, been a gift to the mental health community. Many feel the comments have set progress back in the fight against reducing mental health stigma because they relegate people with PTSD to a level of being lesser people – less brave, less strong, less competent. Such remarks are harmful and insensitive. However, his comments about PTSD have brought this issue back to the forefront of our discussions, encouraging conversation about the causes of and treatments for PTSD. Those of us with a mental health issue know that neither having, acknowledging, nor seeking help for a mental health illness is a sign of weakness in any way. Seeking help is in fact a sign of strength. One does not choose to have a mental illness, but one can choose to battle that illness and lead a good life.
There are articles written about PTSD, and studies done about PTSD and its effect on returning troops. From these studies we have come to understand its severity among our troops. We have learned that many soldiers are embarrassed by and afraid of the consequences of having PTSD. Through these studies, we have learned many soldiers feel they should be able to cope on their own, and that the “problem” will resolve itself. We have learned that PTSD does not play favorites according to one’s rank. We have learned that there are approximately 20 suicides committed each day by former soldiers who suffer with PTSD. We have learned that there is help for PTSD that works, and a PTSD sufferer who gets help is usually able to live a better life. And most importantly, we have learned that there is a stigma attached to having a PTSD diagnosis that is preventing many people from seeking the help that they need.
We think of PTSD in relationship to the military and a soldier’s reaction to the extreme situations that are experienced on the battlefield, but PTSD can effect anyone who has been traumatized by any life event. It is important that anyone with PTSD, no matter the source of its cause, should seek out the help he or she needs.
At a CNN Town Hall Meeting, Barack Obama said, “If you break your leg, you’re going to go to the doctor to get that leg healed. If, as a consequence of the extraordinary stress and pain that you are witnessing, typically, in a battlefield, something inside you feels like it’s wounded, it’s just like a physical injury. You’ve got to go get help. There’s nothing weak about that. It’s strong.”
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