The Trauma Lines Blog

Association of Traumatic Stress Specialists

Posts Tagged ‘Trauma

Washington Seeks to Fight Military Sexual Trauma…But What’s the Best Way?

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“What I had to deal with in the Air Force just about destroyed me,” [Vietnam Vet JoAnn] White told The Arizona Republic. “I hope telling what happened to me will help other women. I am fed up and tired. I want the word out there.”

The ongoing conflict in the Middle East has unfortunately forced many around this country to wage a different war, one not fought with guns or missiles, one fought with lawsuits and legislation.

Military sexual trauma (MST) is an issue our military has been dealing with for a long, long time. Take JoAnn’s case, she’s still unable to work because of the abuse she sustained from her peers while serving in Vietnam.

And obviously, the problem of MST persists to this day:

Last year, 3,158 sexual assaults were reported by men and women serving in all branches of the Armed Forces, according to the Department of Defense’s Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military. But the department estimates that last year’s number reflects only about 13.5 percent of the total number of assaults on men and women in active duty last year.

Another estimate from the VA says a mere 10 percent of the total abuse cases which occur are actually reported.

Many are trying to change that, including our lawmakers who introduced the “Defense Sexual Trauma Response, Oversight and Good Governance” — or Defense STRONG — Act last month:

If passed, it would give military sexual assault victims the right to legal counsel and to transfer to another base after making a complaint. The bill also would mandate increased training on bases to prevent sex assaults.

But is the real problem for MST victims the lack of resources or the “culture” of the military itself?

Many believe that the best way to get at the root problem of sexual violence is through training early in a military career.

“Correcting the culture within the military is being done in a very pointed way,” said Joice Jones, a civilian social worker who coordinates Luke Air Force Base’s sexual assault prevention and response program and helps run prevention workshops.

Jones compares many of the airmen and airwomen stationed at Luke to first-year college students: They are away from home for the first time and need information about date rape prevention as well as how to intervene if they see someone on base being sexually harassed or assaulted.

READERS: How can our government best address this epidemic? Does it come down to funding, is it merely the actions of a few bad seeds, or should our military look into overhauling its entire “culture”?

Written by traumalines

May 24, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Are You Truly Prepared for A Disaster?

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Isn’t it amazing how some things in our life, no matter how minute they are in retrospect, can really disrupt our everyday routines? This past winter after a blizzard which dumped about two feet of snow in my town, I was amazed how this snow caused such a disruption, between the problems trying to just get around, to the lack of parking spots, and not to mention all that shoveling.

It hit me that in a short while this snow will melt, the plow trucks will carve out some drivable roadways, and life will return to “normal.”

The point here is it really made me consider how difficult everyday life must be after a true natural disaster like an earthquake, tornado or flood. If my life is this inconvenienced by some snow, imagine the disruption if building were reduced to rubble, there was no running water and some of my fellow residents were injured or even killed.

I wanted to share a blog post from the extremely popular personal finance blog Get Rich Slowly (GRS). Now you may be saying to yourself, “What does personal finance have to do with trauma or disaster preparedness?” GRS does a fantastic job at weaving nearly every aspect of your life into its impact on your finances.

So, are you financially prepared for a disaster? Just because you purchased a disaster preparedness kit form the Red Cross doesn’t mean you’re prepared for every scenario. Have you thought about life’s most basic needs to the point of how and where you will go to the bathroom if there’s no running water?

Be sure to read “Emergency Preparedness on a Shoestring.” Here’s a little sample:

Images of devastation emerged after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. We watched water sweep away vehicles and houses; we saw stunned men and weeping women in the ruins. But we also heard about survivors whose homes weren’t flattened or inundated, people who subsisted on stockpiled food and water while waiting for help. Living on the “Ring of Fire” means temblors and tidal waves are a fact of life — and so is disaster preparedness.

We need to be prepared, too. The Department of Homeland Security’s Ready America program says we should be able to sustain ourselves for at least three days after an emergency, whether that’s a hundred-year storm or a civil insurrection.
How ready are you?

Right now, before anything bad happens, is the time to build your emergency kit — and you can do it on a budget. In fact, you probably already have some (or a lot) of what you need.

Written by traumalines

April 11, 2011 at 8:21 pm

ATSS: Looking Back on 2010

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As we make our way through spring, ATSS is not only looking ahead to 2011 and beyond, we wanted to take a few moments to remind our members of what we accomplished last year.

Here’s a list of some of the more significant accomplishments made by the Board and the organization in 2010:

  • Revised membership application form and description.
  • Reviewed and adjusted team membership rates.
  • Reviewed certification fees – recommended the following changes effective February 2011: Add student and senior rate and offered longer term.
  • Successfully developed and offered International Trauma Conference and generated a modest profit.
  • Started review of website with objective to rebuild the entire site. Started costing process.
  • Made significant changes to existing website.
  • Started review of membership database.
  • Started review of certification database.
  • Reviewed and endorsed six trainings.
  • Updated board portion of website. Added board member bios and email addresses.
  • Conducted review and started reprint of existing bylaw manual.
  • Reviewed and amended sponsor recognition around certifications.
  • Updated ATSS logo.
  • Added two additional board members and filled vacant Secretary (Linda Hood) and Treasurer (Christine Dernederlanden) positions.
  • Identified dormant committees and added one new one (Fundraising and Promotion).
  • Developed ATSS blog.
  • Sent ten blast emails.
  • Published four (January, March, May and July) editions of Trauma Lines.
  • Renewed management agreement with MHANJ.
  • Revised ATSS letterhead.
  • Updated online membership application form.
  • Updated online certification application form.
  • Added an additional ATSS regional meeting in NJ/NY.
  • Repatriated the Carol Hacker Award lantern.
  • Started planning for the strategic planning meeting in 2011.
  • Started to develop policy to deal with former members misusing certifications and membership references on resumes, websites, letterhead and promotional materials.
  • Our contracted Office Administrator, Lauren DePoto, took advantage of a career opportunity and moved on with our thanks and gratitude for a job well done. We welcomed Annie James as our new Office Administrator.
  • Developed member resource directory application form.
  • Established a working relationship with PTSD Anonymous, Tacoma, Washington.
  • Updated sponsor contact information while recruiting new sponsors.
  • ATSS Facebook page and Twitter Account
  • Added MA State Disaster Behavioral Health Network to our list of collaborators.

Written by traumalines

March 30, 2011 at 7:42 pm

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Can Critical Incident Stress Debriefing Increase Chances of PTSD?

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One experts seems to think so.

TIME’s Maia Szalavitz interviewed Emory University psychology professor Scott Lilienfeld who is of the opinion that critical incident stress debriefing can actually increase someone’s chances of post-traumatic stress.

As we noted yesterday, the psychological impact of the devastation in Japan is expected to be massive. But is the technique commonly used by trauma responders doing more harm than good?

Here’s an excerpt from the TIME interview with the professor:

So, how could the counseling of survivors immediately after the tsunami and earthquake possibly backfire?

No one knows for sure why it’s not a good idea, but given what the research shows, [some kinds of debriefing can be harmful]. It usually involves putting people in groups very shortly after the traumatic event and strongly encouraging them to “Get their feelings out” and “Talk about it” and so on. In classic debriefing, they almost prescribe symptoms, saying things like “Don’t be surprised if you start feeling X, Y or Z” or “There’s a good chance you’ll have nightmares or flashbacks.” There’s some speculation that that [in itself] might bring some of the symptoms on, so I’m not sure that’s a great idea.

What does the research find?

The research shows that [this type of debriefing is] probably at best ineffective and may actually be harmful in some cases. [It’s not clear why]. Some of what happens is that you have to respect individual coping mechanisms. Some people are ready to talk and some prefer not to talk. One problem with classic debriefing is that it often strongly encourages or urges people to talk about emotional memories that they may not really want to talk about. It’s best to kind of leave it alone.

[Another] thing we know is that if you want to deal with anxiety, you have to allow anxiety to peak first and then pass, and give people enough opportunity to fully process it. [These techniques] may bring up some anxiety and increase it, maybe even bring up new anxieties and not really resolve them or make them worse.

But one recent paper claimed that the evidence of harm [from debriefing] was overstated, so there is still some controversy over whether it’s useless or actively harmful — but even these authors admit that when used sloppily, [debriefing] probably is harmful.

I’ve heard that another problem arises from the fact that the counselors are strangers. They come into a situation from outside and are not known to the survivors.

It could be that there would be problems with strangers, but I think that a bigger concern is that [interventions] have to respect people’s culture. There are certainly cultural similarities between the U.S. and Japan but there are also other cultural differences that have to be respected.

Japan tends to be, in a broad generalization, somewhat more of a collectivist culture. There’s often more respect for community and group harmony, group cohesion. There’s a danger in people coming in who are not sufficiently culturally sensitive to those kinds of issues. They need to be very careful that interventions they use are culturally attuned.

Click here to continue reading the TIME interview.

Written by traumalines

March 15, 2011 at 8:33 pm

More from Queensland’s First Responders

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Earlier this month we shared a video about the first responders of the devastating Queensland floods that tore through the north east portion of Australia. The video was about a 13-year-old boy who sacrificed his own life to save his younger brother’s.

We have another story to share about another one of Queensland’s first responders who helped pick up the pieces after the waters subsided:

HELPING people is in Heidi Wallace’s blood. The mother of one and a lieutenant with the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service on Coochiemudlo for six years, was one of the first to be sent into the flood disaster zone.

For five days, she worked on a fire truck that drove around decimated Brisbane streets stopping at houses gutted after a river of mud bashed its way through their walls.

“I was amazed at what I saw. There was destroyed furniture and piles of stuff stacked up on the footpath everywhere,” Heidi said.

Our first responders have no choice but to face whatever traumatic events confront them, no matter how difficult, no matter how long their experiences stay with them:

Heidi has lived on Coochie for eight years, near her sister, Elly Van Acker, a first responder with the Queensland Ambulance Service, who also worked in flooded areas in Brisbane Elly went to Indooroopilly and Toowong at night, just hours after the flood rushed through Brisbane.

She saw a man walk into the swirling black waters and not return.

“What I saw is personally very confronting and will be with me for the rest of my life,” Ely said.

“Police moved me on so I never found out the man’s fate,” Elly said. “The trauma people experienced will be with them for a long time,” Elly said.

Written by traumalines

January 27, 2011 at 9:28 pm

NIMH: Prevention Research Continues

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It was over a year ago when we first discussed how prevention efforts were becoming the top priority of mental health researchers. Well that hasn’t changed. Since December 2009 (when we first discussed prevention on this blog), the types of traumatic events that triggered PTSD in some people haven’t stopped; unfortunately they’ll never stop.

The conflicts in the Middle East rage on, one of the worst earthquakes in history destroyed parts of Haiti, and viscous violence, like the attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, infiltrate our society on a far-too-often basis.

These are just some of the reasons why the research continues into forming a better understanding of why certain individuals react differently to traumatic events. The NIMH has dedicated years to researching traumatic stress reactions, as well as ways to determine which individuals may be more susceptible to long-term mental health issues stemming from traumatic stress.

I really encourage everyone to watch the “Speaking of Science Series — Discussion on PTSD” video from the NIMH. It’s only about 11 minutes long, but both Dr. Robert Heinssen and Dr. Farris Tuma of the NIMH explain how the emergence of prevention has greatly served to increase their industry’s fight, especially within the U.S. military, against traumatic reactions to stress.

Written by traumalines

January 26, 2011 at 8:50 pm

The True Hero of the Queensland Floods

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A 13-year-old Australian boy is being hailed by his fellow countrymen as “the true hero of the Queensland floods.” This boy’s story is one of incredible bravery and self-sacrifice, but also an example of how first responders are exposed to traumatic events that are often hard to forget.

Here’s the boy’s story:

Written by traumalines

January 13, 2011 at 9:21 pm