Soldiers’ PTSD/Suicide is a Public Health Crisis, Not a Private Matter

PTSD is a public health issue, but for some reason, our government doesn’t think so. Apparently, soldiers and PTSD is a private matter that is even deemed “an administrative issue”, as was stated by one soldier in her statement to the press.

Certainly cutting Veteran Affairs Canada’s services is a colossal step in the wrong direction and so is the lack of education on what exactly post-traumatic stress disorder is and how it manifests after the war. Further to this, PTSD is complicated and requires special knowledge and training by professionals that treat it. Unfortunately, many PTSD treatments are designed to be sold to the consumer in manualized treatment packages with 12 sessions or more, failing to recognize that trauma and the brain are complex and cannot be fixed in a set amount of time. Such manualized programs are designed for research purposes to measure outcomes and were actually never meant to be used as a measurement (time frame) for healing.

Any therapist will tell you that substances are often used by people as a way to change the state, calm the nervous system, and shut the mind down to get away from flashbacks, nightmares, and racing thoughts. Therefore, treatment is unique to each individual and cannot be measured in neat and tidy sessions designed for the middle class without a substance abuse concern.

It is these very manualized programs that the government uses to measure outcomes and then decides what kind of financial resources should be distributed to certain mental health organizations. Such programs are designed to move soldiers on quickly to support fiscal prudence. It is beyond my understanding of how one can negotiate funds in such a way where soldiers are time-limited help. Such practice further perpetuates the myth that PTSD is a private matter and not a public one. If only a soldier or sexual abuse survivor could be healed in 12 sessions or more!

PTSD is complicated. A trigger in the present that is connected to an event in a war can also be connected to feeder memories connected to childhood or past adult trauma. Every person is different with a unique history, and a sense of self-worth. Each person has unique circumstances. When we look at healing trauma, we look at cultural negotiations, substance abuse, the culture of the person’s occupation, family background, biology, and social supports.

To suggest, then, that PTSD was not the cause of these soldiers’ suicides is irresponsible. A soldier returning to his or her homeland has many things to negotiate while dealing with debilitating and distressing symptoms that are enough to take anyone out.

If suicide is complex, which I think everyone understands, then I guess we can close the door to this one and quietly speak about the tragedy as just that, a tragedy. But what if you are wrong?

What if, when one begins to look at the research with PTSD, one realizes that suicide is a factor and a common outcome of untreated severe PTSD symptoms? What if, in suggesting that suicide, in this case, is complicated, and not necessarily a result of soldiers’ PTSD symptoms, you are actually maintaining complicity to the matter of soldiers and suicide. In that complicity of “it’s complicated”, are you not maintaining this matter remain a private one?

Let’s please pay attention to these soldiers’ suicides and not undermine the severity of this very important public health crisis we have on our hands!!

Canada, you can do better.

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