OTIS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mass. --
June is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) awareness month. It is important to recognize the signs of PTSD and seek mental health support as Airmen stand ready to respond to the nation’s emergencies at a moment’s notice. According to Jill Garvin, 102nd Intelligence Wing Director of Psychological Health, there are four clusters of symptoms to look out for.
“Post Traumatic Stress is not that uncommon,” said Garvin. “About 50% of men and women experience PTS of some kind. People who experience PTS usually recover from it or it resolves on its own, but for some, the stress will persist resulting in PTSD.”
According to the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs National Center for PTSD, rate of the disorder among Vietnam War veterans was 26.9%, for the Gulf War veterans was 12.1%, and Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom veterans was 13.8%.
“In PTSD There are four clusters of symptoms,” Garvin continued. “To some people with PTSD, they can find themselves suddenly living through vivid memories of past events as well as having night terrors.”
Hyperarousal, avoidance, exaggerated or startled responses, and alteration in thoughts and mood are all part of the four clusters of symptoms. Many people with PTSD use substances such as alcohol and drugs to mask their condition, but according to Garvin, that only delays the healing process.
“There are resources on the VA’s website to self assess if you are experiencing PTSD,” explains Garvin. “The online tool gives you a general idea of where you are, but it’s important to seek professional help. Many in the military are afraid of counseling in fear of damaging their career, but it’s not a disqualifier to get mental health treatment.”
There is a wide range of treatment options for PTSD. A licensed mental health professional can provide cognitive behavioral therapy, prolonged exposure therapy, cognitive processing therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). Garvin said all of these treatments can be very successful if people engage in it because no treatment is a one-size-fits-all.
The Department of Defense has developed PTSD Coach, an app that can help fast track the journey to recovery with additional resources such as professional help and symptom management. The VA online PTSD screening tool can be found by following this link:
For members on and off base, Jill Garvin can be reached at 508-237-6652.