IN FOCUS Discussion: National PTSD Awareness Month

In Focus

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – National PTSD Awareness Month is observed each year in June. The American Psychiatric Association defines PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) as a psychiatric disorder that “may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape, threats of death, sexual violence, or serious injury.

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People with PTSD have intense, disturbing thoughts, and feelings related to their experience that last long after the traumatic event has ended. They may relive the event through flashbacks or nightmares. They may feel sadness, fear or anger, and they may feel detached or estranged from other people.

People with PTSD may avoid situations or people that remind them of the traumatic event and they may have strong negative reactions to something as ordinary as a loud noise or an accidental touch.

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, about seven to eight percent of the country’s population will have PTSD at some point in their lives. PTSD can happen to anyone, as an injury or change in psychological functioning as a result of trauma. During this time, awareness efforts aim to educate the public about this subject, reduce the stigmas associated with it, and identify ways to seek help for those who are suffering.

Dawn Heydt, a retired air force veteran joined ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen on the CW30 News at 7 p.m. for an IN FOCUS discussion about her personal experiences. She talked about her background, the incident that caused her PTSD, how it impacted her life, when she sought help and treatment, how it’s changed her life for the better, and what she would say to other people struggling with PTSD.

Lynn Higgins, peer support specialist at VA Salt Lake City discussed why it’s important to have peers involved in a PTSD recovery program, how being both a combat veteran of the Vietnam War and Operation Iraqi Freedom plays a role in his work, how the Veteran’s Experience Forum helps those transitioning from the military to civilian world, and the barriers that cause veterans to not seek help for PTSD and other mental health issues.

Dr. Elisabeth Scott, clinical psychologist at VA Salt Lake City addressed how PTSD is different from a typical reaction to stress, the misconceptions about this topic, how people can get help with lasting symptoms for PTSD, the considerations for people who’ve experienced affects from discrimination and prejudice, how treatment adapted to the limitations of COVID-19, and the resources available for people to learn more about PTSD and trauma-focused therapies.

Veterans everywhere learn more through the National Center for PTSD. Local veterans interested in scheduling assessment and treatment for PTSD can enroll at the Salt Lake City VA or call the PTSD clinical team coordinator, Dr. Steve Allen at 801-582-1565 ext. 2390.

Non-veterans interested in referrals can search for mental health providers who offer evidence-based psychotherapy for PTSD by visiting the Utah Psychological Association’s website.

To watch the full IN FOCUS discussion with Heydt, Higgins, and Dr. Scott, click on the video at the top of the article.

Catch IN FOCUS discussions with ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen weeknights on the CW30 News at 7 p.m.

Rosie Nguyen is an award-winning journalist who joined the ABC4 News team as a reporter in January 2018. In September 2020, she embarked on a new journey as the anchor for the CW30 News at 7 p.m. Although she’s not out in the field anymore, she is continuing her passion for social justice and community issues through the nightly “In Focus” discussions.

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