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June marks Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Month
Gaston Gazette - 6/23/2021
Robert Gorlach has spent a career listening and helping patients solve problems, but those issues have been amplified over the course of the pandemic, says the licensed clinical social worker at Gastonia counseling business Essential Journey.
"That sense of threat looms," he said. "Am I going to get sick? Do I wear a mask? What are the political implications if I wear my mask versus not wearing my mask."
All these questions can create tension, anxiety and doubt in anyone, but those dealing with mental health issues may have more difficulty resolving them.
June marks Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Month. PTSD is often treatable with cognitive behavioral therapy, a short-term therapy technique that can help people find new ways to behave by changing their thought patterns.
About 8 out of every 100 people will have PTSD at some point in their lives, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
A bad experience that becomes a traumatic memory can be explained as a shard of glass that keeps cutting in the mind. As such, it becomes indigestible as a memory.
"It stays there and it does its insidious work. We can't put the memory in the past. It keeps coming up and it keeps traumatizing us," Gorlach said.
Flashbacks and feeling anxiety to these memories are normal, says Jennifer Moore, manager at Gastonia's Partners Health Management and licensed clinical mental health counselor. However, if they become chronic they can impact everyday life.
Whether the memories relate to combat, early abuse, or a car accident, these events are often remembered as an image of horror.
"The traumatic memory is so focused on that one image that people are unable to make a story out of it," Gorlach said.
These memories can be reframed so a person can make the traumatic event about survival, not just horror and victimization.
"It can help a person feel more grounded. That is the work of therapy," Gorlach said.
Talking with a primary care doctor should be the first step in addressing mental health issues, Moore said.
A person should also try to find a good support system to talk to, whether that be family or friends.
Talk about PTSD used to center around soldiers, veterans or disaster victims. Younger generations are leading the way at breaking down the stigma of mental illness, Moore said.
"I think that people still struggle with feeling like they're misunderstood or feeling like there's something wrong with them, and that's why they can't talk about it because it's hard to articulate," Moore said.
How friends can help?
Asking "What happened to you" instead of "what's wrong with you" can help people feel more supported, and less negative about living with PTSD.
"Changing our language and also changing the way we approach folks. That's a big part of it," Moore said.
Partners’ Access to Care Call Center is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-888-235-HOPE.
You can reach Sarah Marino at 704-869-1850 or SMarino@Gannett.com.
This article originally appeared on The Gaston Gazette: June marks Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Month
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