June is National PTSD Awareness Month, but local advocates say stigmas persist about what qualifies as PTSD.
What incidents cause trauma vary by person. It can be anything from a car accident to a parent’s divorce, Voices of Courage Children’s Advocacy Center Executive Director Melissa Birdsell said.
“Trauma can be that you, maybe, were removed from your home for a little while, or permanently removed from your home,” she said. “That’s significant trauma even if you were never physically harmed. So trauma is actually something that happens to your brain as well as your body.”
People sometimes visit St. Joseph YWCA for help, and it turns out they have multiple instances of trauma, YWCA therapist Deretha Hicks-Sykes said. Other times, it’s buried so deep in a person’s mind that they don’t realize it’s there.
“Sometimes you don’t find out what the severity of trauma is until you get to talking with people,” she said. “You know, people will come in, ‘Oh, I don’t have any problems with trauma.’ And then you get to talking about what they’ve been through in their life, what they’ve been through in their childhood, and a lot of times it comes out.”
Not seeking help can potentially lead people to adopt dangerous coping mechanisms, Birdsell said. Trauma can negatively impact a person’s life for years if left untreated.
“I think we’re seeing, I mean not just here but in lots of different places around the country, the result of what happens when we don’t get our mental health issues treated,” she said. “And so, there’s a lot of different things that can happen. We self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, we self-harm, we do lots of different things… because we haven’t figured out how to deal with our trauma.”
It also is important to understand what each agency focuses on, Hicks-Sykes said.
YWCA therapy services focus on domestic violence victims, usually teenagers and older. Voices of Courage services are geared toward children dealing with various forms of trauma. Family Guidance Center for Behavioral Health, and Northwest Behavioral Health Services also provide help to residents coping with PTSD.
National PTSD Awareness Month was started by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. The goal is to “reduce the stigma associated with PTSD,” according to
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