For many of us when we think of PTSD, the first things that come to mind are first responders and combat vets. What we don't think about is what treatment looks like for them and the reasons they don't seek help.
Let's start with first responders. Their reasons for not seeking help are many, often too many to list and we'll touch on the most common barriers. To begin, let's think about what it must be like to witness horrific events on a daily basis: car accidents, death, destruction, and watching how poorly people treat one another. We must also consider other first line responders such as doctors, nurses and other medical professionals exposed to more than any human should be expected to endure.
Knowing and understanding are two completely different things. The culture of police departments, fire stations, etc., doesn't help. They believe, "It's your job and you should just suck it up." "Asking for help is a sign of weakness." "If I seek help everyone will think I'm a wimp." These attitudes are promoted internally among the ranks but leadership in these areas recognizes the seriousness of ongoing trauma and encourages treatment. Enduring PTSD without seeking help can adversely affect job performance.
For combat vets the reasons are similar but there are other complexities inherent to this sector:
Believing you will get better on your own.
Not knowing that PTSD treatments work.
Thinking services are for other people, not you.
Mistrust of anyone who is not a vet and hasn't been through the same things.
A diagnosis of PTSD will affect benefits.
One vet was overheard saying: "The trauma is the one thing that holds me together. If I get help I'll just unravel at my core."
Knocking down the barriers to treatment:
Know your treatment options and that in addition to conventional medicine the alternatives include acupuncture, neurofeedback, EFT (emotional freedom techniques), EMDR.
Talk to someone you trust such as family, friends, clergy, other vets and first responders.
Join a support group.
Our vets are a national treasure. We are where we are because of them and they deserve whatever help we can give them when they need it most. Let's be there for them. If you know a vet or first responder in need of help for PTSD, help them recognize the necessity of getting the help they need.