Conditions

June is PTSD Awareness Month. Here’s What You Need to Know

June is PTSD Awareness Month, highlighting the need to educate and support those affected by PTSD. Originating from military contexts, PTSD affects millions from various traumas. The month aims to reduce stigma, promote understanding, and encourage seeking effective, evidence-based treatments with Grow.

Wendy Wisner By Wendy Wisner, MFA, IBCLC
Distraught woman on a bed.

Updated on May 29, 2024

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In the month of June, we observe PTSD Awareness Month, an opportunity to educate and advocate for anyone affected by Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Symptoms of PTSD can be debilitating and may include nightmares, flashbacks, becoming easily startled, trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating, social isolation, and engaging in risky behaviors. The condition not only has harmful effects on the people who experience it, but also impacts families, communities, and society at large.

PTSD awareness month empowers people to understand that while PTSD may have a strong hold over their lives, evidence-based treatment and support resources are available to help people living with PTSD. Recovering from PTSD is not something you have to do alone.

Here, we’ll take a closer look at PTSD, including symptoms, impacts, and treatments. We’ll also look at the history of PTSD Awareness Month, and what the month means for people with PTSD and the people who love them.

History of PTSD Awareness Month

Although PTSD has been recognized as a mental health condition since the 1980s, it was mostly associated with post-war symptoms experienced by people in the military. While the military community still experiences PTSD at slightly higher rates than the general population, PTSD is prevalent in other communities as well, and can impact anyone who has experienced a trauma. PTSD Awareness Month is meant to raise awareness about PTSD and support PTSD advocacy for all the people that this condition can affect.

PTSD Awareness Month started with PTSD awareness day on June 27, 2010. This day was established to commemorate Staff Sergeant Joe Biel, a National Guard service member with PTSD who died by suicide. Four years later, the U.S. government designated all of June as PTSD Awareness Month. Now, numerous national organizations engage in PTSD awareness activities that stress the importance of PTSD education and PTSD advocacy.

Importance of PTSD Awareness Month

PTSD is more common than many realize, affecting about 12 million people in the U.S. Educating people about PTSD prevalence and symptoms is one of the main goals of PTSD Awareness Month. For example, according to the National Center for PTSD, some of the PTSD Awareness 2024 suggested activities include sharing resources on social media about PTSD symptoms and taking a PTSD symptoms self-test.

“I believe it is important to raise awareness of PTSD because it is a lot more common than society gives credit to,” Sabrina Nasta, a licensed mental health counselor with Grow Therapy. “This awareness could help reduce stigma, while also reducing the isolation and loneliness individuals experience when they experience it or have it.”

Not only that, but PTSD awareness month has the potential to help people with PTSD recognize their symptoms and seek evidenced-based treatment sooner rather than later. Awareness is also a vital way to educate friends and family members of people with PTSD, so that they can better support their loved ones, Nasta says.

Understanding PTSD

Getting the help you need to manage PTSD starts with understanding what PTSD is and recognizing your PTSD symptoms.

PTSD can happen to anyone who has witnessed a trauma or experienced a traumatic event. This includes both adults and children. It can affect veterans, first responders, or any individuals who’ve witnessed serious accidents, natural disasters, or who have survived abuse. “PTSD can be defined as a mental disorder that is most commonly caused by the exposure to a traumatic event, whether one is experiencing and/or witnessing this event,” Nasta describes.

While not everyone will experience PTSD after trauma, 6 in 100 people will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. You won’t necessarily experience PTSD symptoms right after the event; for some people, they can take several months or longer to develop. In order to be diagnosed with PTSD, you have to have symptoms for at least one month. Furthermore, the symptoms have to be serious enough to impact your ability to function in your daily life, such as at work, school, or in your relationships with others.

PTSD can be defined as a mental disorder that is most commonly caused by the exposure to a traumatic event, whether one is experiencing and/or witnessing this event.

- Sabrina Nasta, LMHC

Everyone experiences PTSD symptoms a little differently, and may have different PTSD triggers, which are experiences that trigger PTSD symptoms. “People with PTSD can experience flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, difficulty sleeping, irritability, hypervigilance, hopelessness, guilt, emotional numbness, and avoidance of people, places, or situations that are reminders of the trauma,” describes Melissa Galica, a licensed professional counselor with Grow Therapy.

Everyone is at risk of developing PTSD, says Galica. Although PTSD is most associated with veterans and people in professions like firefighters and police officers, it can affect anyone. This includes “children, professionals who are put in traumatic situations as part of their jobs (e.g., police, fire, rescue, medical), asylum seekers, and refugees,” she says.

Some of the most overlooked populations who experience PTSD are children and the elderly, who are at high risk due to lack of control of their environments, says Nasta. “I believe these are groups that are brushed over and not attended to in ways they could be from a medical and mental health perspective,” she explains.

Impact of PTSD on Individuals and Communities

PTSD can have major effects on individuals who have it. “The continual stress PTSD is associated with can negatively impact one’s physical and mental health, especially if it is not attended to early on,” says Nasta.

PTSD can impact your sleep, your ability to concentrate, and your ability to cope with the day-to-day stressors of life. Many people with PTSD avoid situations that they fear will trigger symptoms, which can lead to decreased socializing, trouble at school or work, and loneliness. PTSD can affect physical health as well, leading to increased risks of heart attacks, stroke, blood pressure, and diabetes.

But PTSD also strongly impacts the people who love and care for someone with PTSD. “PTSD can also negatively impact relationships for an individual as their emotional instability and symptoms can feel uncomfortable for others and cause isolation from peers and loved ones or impulsive reactions and behaviors that could hinder or harm a relationship,” Nasta describes.

What many people don’t fully realize is that PTSD can have strong impacts on communities and society at large. “From a community standpoint, PTSD can and does have a negative impact when not treated or attended to,” Nasta says. PTSD impacts people from all socioeconomic backgrounds but it disproportionately impacts low-income families worldwide, Nasta explains. “The inability for these communities, families, and individuals to access healthcare, support, and resources continues the cycle of trauma being passed down and PTSD existing,” she says.

PTSD also has serious economic impacts, with one recent study finding that the excess economic burden of PTSD was over $232 billion in the U.S. This liability was driven by factors such as health care costs, unemployment, and disability costs. The researchers concluded that increased awareness of PTSD, more therapy options, and expansion of interventions for people with PTSD all could decrease these costs.

Treatment and Support for PTSD

Perhaps the biggest takeaway about PTSD awareness month is that treatment is out there and that evidence-based PTSD treatments can help you feel more like yourself again.

According to Nasta, PTSD treatment is multifaceted and usually includes a combination of psychotherapy (“talk therapy”) and somatic therapies that engage the subconscious mind and body, such as eye-movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR) and Internal Family Systems (IFS). “These therapies allow individuals to heal from an emotional, cognitive and physical standpoint, and also attend to the complex factors of individuals that are influenced by exposure to trauma (unconscious to conscious factors),” she says.

Other types of effective therapy for PTSD include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), brain spotting, and virtual reality immersion therapy, Galica says. “Community and online support groups can be very useful tools to manage PTSD,” she adds. Indeed, research has found that the support of others is an instrumental element in recovering from PTSD.

At times, combining medications with these therapies is helpful, Galica says. According to the National Center for PTSD, there are two selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) medications typically used to treat PTSD: Sertraline (Zoloft) and Paroxetine (Paxil). Venlafaxine (Effexor) is an serotonin-norepinephrine re-uptake inhibitor (SNRI) that can also be used to treat the condition.

Role of PTSD Awareness Month in Therapy and Healing

Above all, PTSD awareness month is about learning to talk about PTSD and destigmatizing it. “PTSD Awareness Month is a chance to break the silence,” Galica says. “By talking openly about PTSD, we can encourage people to seek help and build a more supportive society. It’s by no means a magic bullet for healing, but it opens possibilities for recovery.”

If you are wondering how to help someone with PTSD, one of the best things you can do is to be a good listener, which includes not judging the person who is expressing their feelings and telling their story. But besides that, it’s important to encourage your loved one to seek professional help for PTSD.

In fact, one of the main goals of PTSD awareness month is to encourage people to seek care for PTSD. Approximately 6.8% of U.S. adults will experience PTSD in their lifetime, yet only about 50% will seek treatment for their symptoms. Seeking care for PTSD begins with becoming more aware of PTSD, and what the symptoms are. After this, it involves finding a mental health provider who can help you move through your journey toward healing.

Grow Therapy has many therapists who are highly trained to help treat PTSD. Keep in mind that finding a therapist who works for you can be a process. It’s best to talk to a few therapists until you find one who you feel comfortable with. Look for therapists who have background and expertise in PTSD and trauma.

FAQs

  • PTSD awareness helps destigmatize PTSD, and it encourages people to seek out mental health care so that they can recover from the condition.

  • PTSD is common, affecting about 6% of people at one point in their lives. It can impact anyone who has experienced trauma, including people who have witnessed violence, natural disasters, or experienced abuse.

  • PTSD can make it difficult for you to function in your daily life, and can also affect sleep, concentration, and your overall health.

  • Symptoms of PTSD fall into the following four categories: intrusion, avoidance, alterations in cognition and mood, and alterations in arousal and reactivity.

About the author
Wendy Wisner Wendy Wisner, MFA, IBCLC

Wendy Wisner is a writer and lactation consultant (IBCLC) who covers maternal/child health, women’s health, general health and wellness, mental health, parenting, and education. Her work has appeared on The Washington Post, Family Circle, ABC News, Parents Magazine, Verywell, Fit Pregnancy, Healthline, Your Teen Magazine, and elsewhere.

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. We recommend speaking with a therapist for personalized information about your mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who can offer support and address any questions or concerns. If you or your child is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should dial 9-1-1 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

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