June has become PTSD Awareness Month in our country—a time we are asked to raise awareness of those, particularly in the military, who are diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In light of the epidemic prevalence of this syndrome, it is important that we continue to make progress on treatment methods and their availability to those who need them.
PTSD is not only relegated to military personnel
We have epidemic trauma among several populations, including children.
Children who have experienced varied types of abuse or neglect also have evidence of symptoms of PTSD. Also, many adults also have the symptoms of PTSD due to traumatic events that have occurred during their lives.
Healthcare coverage for PTSD
Media coverage has made it clear our veterans are not getting the health care that they need for medical and/or physical issues. If that is true for purely physical issues, imagine how unable the VA system is to deal with complex and multi-faceted aspects of PTSD, which can be present along with other injuries.
What we are learning from research and experience is that most of the cognitive behavior therapeutic approaches are not very effective in dealing with PTSD. Typical counseling can be helpful, but these cognitive therapies are not as successful as some other approaches.
If you think about it, most PTSD results from a sensory experience.
Sometimes it is a result of physical injury, but largely PTSD symptoms come from a perception, a significant threat, a severe adverse event, or some other serious imprints that alter thought processes.
It would make sense that in order to provide a therapeutic approach that will bring better outcomes for PTSD victims, we should be thinking about more somatic (i.e., of the mind) therapies. Consider that EMDR, movement therapies, music therapies, neuro-feedback and other types of brain-based therapies are showing much more promise with trauma-impacted individuals.
These therapies can be applied to all individuals. Even in our schools at Lakeside, we are using these somatic therapies to help our students overcome some significant obstacles.
Rather than medicate our veterans (which may be helpful and necessary at times), we have a unique opportunity to use somatic approaches for trauma victims. Without taking some new well-considered risks and trying new ideas, we will have a very difficult time helping anyone recover from traumatic events.
Somatic treatments instead of medications?
So, in thinking about our military and other trauma-victims, we can now make different choices than medications. It is exciting to see how many neuroscientists are consistently working on these types of issues in their research studies. I firmly believe that we currently have the opportunity to make a significant positive impact in PTSD victims, but our systems have yet to recognize that serious changes need to be made in how we treat PTSD.
It is my hope that we will broaden our treatment methods, launch new centers of availability specifically to treat PTSD, and create new forums of communication and training. These steps will help individuals cope with traumatic events in a very new and positive manner.
However, imagine the level of funding we need to move forward. What if others would have confidence in the research of our neuroscientists? These professionals are committed to do their work, publish their results and provide training for other therapies in their sphere of influence.
Now, imagine all of our veterans who need these therapies may receive them. How can we move toward that vision?
We have a problem of epidemic proportions.
Unfortunately, the epidemic has culminated in an epidemic for military, adults and children from some very difficult “wars.” If we are going to progress in prevention of PTSD, we must provide early intervention and a variety of treatments that are more sensory so we realistically evaluate individual needs.
I look forward to the results of what Lakeside is implementing right now and how our information may help others.
Also, as we shift funding streams and allocate more funds towards this issue, we will need leaders in clinical settings to help our military recover. This desire is very far from our current state of financing this effort. However, it is well worth the time, effort and study to help us all understand the impact of trauma and how its physiological roots can greatly change our ability to work with the problem of PTSD, no matter how many different audiences we have.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network