A tragedy unfolded in Canada last week with a veteran, and now figures are coming out regarding the crisis of suicide among Canadian military members (but the issue is common around the world). At least 54 Canadian military members have committed suicide since 2014, but due to a lack of reporting, this number is actually predicted to be higher.
Because there is still a stigma regarding mental health and PTSD within the military, many people still struggle to come forward for help. To get the conversation going, let’s honestly talk about what PTSD is. PTSD is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a condition that occurs following the experience (through first-hand or witnessing) of something traumatic, like military combat.
Individuals who survive trauma and have stress reactions (or re-traumatization) can develop PTSD, and it can have a damaging effect both physically and mentally. The effects of PTSD can range from flashbacks, difficulty sleeping, detachment, etc. However, many people with PTSD develop additional disorders such as depression, addiction and various other physical and mental health issues. And the biggest key to healing from these symptoms and trauma itself, is to simply talk.
“Talking. Safe, open and vulnerable conversation is such an undervalued force for positive change.” — Kim Barthel from ‘Conversations with a Rattlesnake’
Soldiers can support each other by providing safe spaces for one another to talk about the experiences they share. Alternatively, simply recognizing the signs of PTSD in another and reaching out, can be a life-saving move as well. During a recent Twitter chat regarding supporting front-line workers with PTSD, Kim Barthel and Theo Fleury offered this advice:
“I’m thinking about the concept of “shake it off”. At least move your body for a moment between experiences. PTSD dogs are out of this world! They are so attuned to the symptoms and provide instant comfort. When you use the information from a trauma emotion to work on yourself it becomes a transformative opportunity.” — Kim Barthel
“The greatest thing you can do to show courage is to ask for help it does not mean you are weak. It means you care about yourself.” — Theo Fleury
For some specific tools on coping with trauma and PTSD, here’s some resources we published specifically for veterans with PTSD. If you’re looking for more guidance on trauma and PTSD, we post more resources every week on our blog, or feel free to pick up a copy of ‘Conversations with a Rattlesnake’, a book full of raw and open conversations on healing and trauma.
— Written by Amber Craig