Tag: trauma

9/11, Hurricane Season, and disaster-related Secondary Traumatic Stress

Yesterday was the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 Terror Attack, and like many Americans I can easily recount where I was at when I saw the coverage of the attack. The event dominated news media for weeks after the events unfolded, and became enshrined as a defining moment of 21st century America.

I cannot even begin to fathom the first hand experiences of people who directly impacted from the attack, but for many, the day is a permanent memory of the way they felt, perceived, and witnessed everything unfold.

Secondary Traumatic Stress occurs when an individual hears the recounting of another’s traumatic life event. Often, the symptoms are similar to that of the more commonly known Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. In recent years, there has been more research being done to see the effects of disasters that affect those beyond those immediately experiencing an event.

In the wake of the recent disasters of Hurricane Harvey and Irma, we have seen coverage of their destruction everywhere from major news sources to the social media that we consume for updates from loved ones. A recent New York Times piece noted that the Weather Channel, being the only network to provide 24/7 access to coverage of the recent Hurricanes, had seen its audience increase nearly tenfold. The coverage of these storms has been vast, because the scale of the destruction of these storms has been unprecedented.

Covering these events is vital, it is important that we do not sensor the news that we receive just because of the harmful effects that it may have on us. But, by being more aware, and staying informed, we can acknowledge the way that having information so freely available can help us to cope, and hopefully heal, together.


Sources –

New York Times Piece: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/09/business/media/weather-channel-hurricane-irma.html?_r=0

Secondary Traumatic Stress: http://www.nctsn.org/resources/topics/secondary-traumatic-stress

Men as victims of rape: trauma and silence

We don’t tend to think of men as victims of rape.  Most of the time they are the “bad guys;” the perps, the predators.  In fact, until very recently the federal government would not even consider the possibility that a man could be a victim of rape.  This despite statistics from the CDC that showed one in 71 men said they’d been raped or been the target of an attempted rape.  And that doesn’t include imprisoned men.

As more figures show that the problem isn’t being evaluated well–which leads me to believe the figures may still be gross understatements–slowly, gradually, resources for these men are becoming available, but the stigma shows few signs of lessening, and the complicated psychological web of male identity still makes the mental impact severe.  A recent New York Times article states that

men who are raped feel violated and ashamed and may become severely depressed or suicidal. They are at increased risk for substance abuse, problems with interpersonal relationships, physical impairments, chronic pain, insomnia and other health problems.

Sadly, our recent history as a war-hungry nation hasn’t helped at all.  A recent study of 3,337 military veterans applying for disability benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder showed that 6.5 percent of male combat veterans and 16.5 percent of noncombat veterans reported being sexually assaulted while they were in the service. (The rates were far higher for female veterans, 69.0 percent and 86.6 percent, respectively.)

One study of 705 men in Virginia found that 13 percent had been sexually assaulted, most before they turned 18. Less than 20% of them got any professional help, and in many cases that includes not getting medical attention for injuries or preventive treatment for STDs.

Yes, it’s hard to worry about men as victims of sexual assault when so many more women suffer this fate.  But knowing that victims often turn into victimizers should make us, as a society, more actively concerned about the stigma that often leads to lack of treatment and thereby causes or aggravates mental illness that continues the cycle of sexual violence.

2011 National Children's Mental Health Day logo

Children and PTSD: Where are they now?

May 3 was National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that

When exposed to a traumatic event, children as young as 18 months can have serious emotional and behavioral problems later in childhood and in adulthood. More than 35 percent of children exposed to a single traumatic event will develop serious mental health problems.

So, how are the children who lived through 9/11 doing nearly a decade later, or the children who lived through Hurricane Katrina nearly six years ago? What about the children in Afghanistan and Iraq who have undergone multiple traumatic events over the last decade, and who are now coming of fighting age? If the above statistics hold true, then maybe addressing and trying to treat PTSD within the populations of war-torn countries is another way we could help stabilize those areas.

How can national and international health communication efforts help prevent the serious adult mental illnesses that arise from childhood trouble? SAMHSA notes that there are effective strategies for aiding children who have experienced trauma, such as being around resilient parents or other adults, maintaining social connections and teaching social and emotional competence to children.

Click here for a list of resources related to children’s mental health