PTSD Awareness lost in the shuffle
One of the many observances that falls through the cracks is National PTSD Awareness month. Veterans are the largest group to suffer from PTSD. Statistics show that with OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom) and OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom) Veterans about 11-20 out of every 100 Veterans served in OIF or OEF have PTSD in a given year. Twelve (12) out of every 100 Gulf War Veterans have PTSD in a given year as well. Also, about 15 out of every 100 Vietnam Veterans were currently diagnosed with PTSD at the time of the most recent study in the late 1980s, the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS). It is estimated that about 30 out of every 100 of Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime.
About 7 or 8 out of every 100 people (or 7-8% of the population) will have PTSD at some point in their lives. About 8 million adults have PTSD during a given year.
It is great that PTSD Awareness has a month to be recognized, but it gets lost in the shuffle. Just like many Veterans do, the sad thing is we are used to it. We get shuffled and forgotten in a hugely overwhelmed VA system, lost in trying to get help or benefits. Sadly, some resort to suicide. Twenty two (22) Veterans a day commit suicide, killing themselves because they watch the world go by as they suffer in silence. PTSD sufferers do not have a parade, they do not have a carnival where the whole town comes to celebrate or show support. Even the media celebrates whatever is PC at the time, not the real issues facing our nation and Veterans.
This time of year is full of triggers for Veteran PTSD suffers. Large crowds, fireworks, road construction (banging of dump trucks, jack hammers), and many more. A well placed firework at the right time can throw a sufferer into not only a hard jolt, but into hyper-vigilance, and sadly a full blown flashback. Interrupting their lives they have been trying to put back together.
Recently while at home, late in the evening, out of nowhere a very large firework exploded a few blocks away. I jumped straight up, tasting the adrenaline on my tongue, scanning for threats, reaching for my sidearm which is no longer where it used to be. After three or four more large booms my mind finally started to realize what they were. My heart still pounded, brain still confused, waiting for something bad to happen.
My wife called the local ballpark the next morning asking if there was a way for them to warn the public when they were going to shoot off large fireworks. If they advertise it in the local media or any social media? They told her they shoot them off when the team is playing a home game, (which we found is not always the case) and that we could just look it up on their website. My wife felt very dismissed by them, we were not satisfied with that answer.
That is when I got the idea; to build a mobile app, one that can be loaded with all the events, ballgames, and any scheduled situations that can trigger someone with PTSD. The app would send a notification to users within a pre-determined radius of the event. Giving any Vet with PTSD time to leave the area, or prepare by putting on their headphones, or turning up the music.
The app would also have direct contact abilities with the Veterans Crisis Hotline via chat or call, with the touch of a button. This is important, as I have had to use it myself.
I started a Kickstarter to help me fund the app, and am in the process of filing the 501 (c) paperwork. The app will be called "HeadsUpPTSD"
With everything else going on in the month of June, PTSD falls through the cracks. Gets pushed aside and lost to most everyone but those who suffer, and their loved ones. I want to help change that. I want to make sure all Veterans like myself, know we will be there to give them a "HeadsUp".