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Have you ever had something terrify you so bad that you have repeated nightmares about it? Have you ever been in a car accident, where you or others were injured? Have you ever been a victim of a violent crime or a crime that could have become violent? Have you ever been in an abusive relationship? Then you, my friend, are halfway to suffering from PTSD.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is commonly known as PTSD. It’s becoming a well known disorder, however it is not yet well understood by all. It can affect anyone and can be triggered by anything. It is hard for those who have never experienced life changing trauma to understand those who have. In some aspects, what is considered trauma to one person, may not be traumatic to another person. What keeps us from having PTSD is our support systems, friends, family, therapy and a person’s own mental fortitude. PTSD can, not only impact those who are suffering from it, due to trauma, but also affect those who interact with the person suffering from it.
In two separate studies, one from 2004 internationally and another in 2013 domestically, “estimates from epidemiological studies range from 25 percent of youths experiencing at least 1 traumatic event by age 16 years to more than 60 percent by ages 16 to 18 years in the United States and internationally”(Connor). PTSD can affect children and adolescents who have a high probability of experiencing traumatic events. This can lead to a cycle of violence, which can affect those who live with and who are affected by those with PTSD. As a result, our society lacks the ability to cope with those who suffer from PTSD. When these people with PTSD are not treated for the disorder, they tend to cause a feedback loop, creating outside stress and trauma, which can affect anyone that comes into contact with them, especially those closest to them.
This perpetuation of this cycle of trauma in their lives and in the lives of others is called The Cycle of Violence. Dr. Lenore Walker conducted interviews with women who were victims of domestic violence from 1978 to 1981. One of her theories became known as the "Cycle of Violence Theory.” (Walker, 1979) There are three phases, tension building, acute explosion, and the honeymoon stage. Phases one and two are are where most PTSD traumas take place. Rather than seeking clinical help, they self medicate, with legal pharmaceuticals, alcohol and illegal drugs. A healthy society does not throw away the potential of its members when it can be avoided. Developing awareness and coping tools in our society will allow us to retain the value of those with PTSD.
A healthy society provides training for first responders and medical professionals, so they are better equipped to treat a person suffering from PTSD. They also establish clinics, where those that are suffering from PTSD or other mental health issues are able to access the medical help they need, even if they don’t have insurance or other medical benefits. A healthy society does not belittle those suffering from mental disorders. Instead, it tries to assist them, and provide them with the help they so desperately need. “People with PTSD are six times as likely as someone without PTSD to attempt suicide. High rates of deliberate self-harm have also been found among people with PTSD.”(Tull) The result of this is that first responders must attempt to assist those affected by PTSD in the worst of times.
As previously mentioned, first responders are another segment of society that tend to suffer from PTSD. “First responders to critical incidents, such as house fires, accidents, shootings, and natural disasters, are also survivors of these events, although the public does not give this type of participant as much consideration as a survivor.”(Garner) They are often put in high stress situations and witness things no human should have to see. First responders can encompass, dispatchers, police officers, fire fighters, emergency medical technicians, search and rescue volunteers, and other trained members of organizations connected to this kind of work. In recent years it has become more acknowledged in the first responder fields that the personnel working can suffer from PTSD. Unfortunately, there is still a stigma attached to PTSD or any other mental health issue. Due to the stigma, police officers and other first responders do not reach out for help until it is too late. As of this date, April 1st, 2019, there have been 56 police officer suicides in the United States alone.
In conclusion, PTSD can not only affect those who are suffering from it, due to trauma, but it also affects those who interact with the person diagnosed with it. PTSD can be caused by any traumatic event. Not all traumatic events affect people the same way. PTSD can start from a very young age and can continue on into adulthood. If not treated, PTSD will cause the cycle of violence to perpetuate. Unless the cycle is broken, through a strong support system, therapy or prescribed medications, the cycle of violence will continue to affect people: the first responders, the families, and friends of the person with PTSD. A healthy society works together to heal even the most broken of us. We do not leave those who suffer to suffer alone in the dark. Police and first responders are not invincible. They suffer and require assistance just as much as those they assist. As a society, we need to support those going through trauma to make sure they receive the treatment they need. We all need to have the necessary tools to help each other.
Connor, D. "An Update on Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Children and Adolescents. Clinical Pediatrics,54(6), 517-528." n.p.: n.p., 7 . 1 Apr. 2019.
Garner, Nadine, et al. “The Private Traumas of First Responders.” Journal of Individual Psychology, vol. 72, no. 3, Fall 2016, pp. 168–185. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.cyclib.nocccd.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=118137484&login.asp&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
Janssens, K. "Resilience Among Police Officers: A Critical Systematic Review of Used Concepts, Measures, and Predictive Values of Resilience. Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology." n.p.: n.p., 11 . 1 Apr. 2019.
Tull, Matthew. “PTSD: Coping, Support, and Living Well.” Verywell Mind, www.verywellmind.com/coping-with-ptsd-2797536.
Walker, L. E. (1979). The battered woman. New York: Harper & Row.