Let me start by defining what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is. It is a disorder in which a person has difficulty recovering after experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event.
Being afraid, after a dangerous or traumatic situation has happened, is normal. Our body triggers the “Fight or Flight response” which is a typical reaction to defend ourselves from danger or harm.
We all are different in the way we respond and react to trauma but at some point some people recover from it naturally and eventually. Those individuals who continuously are experiencing problems maybe diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
What Are The Risk Factors Of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Financial uncertainty
- Relationship loss and other factors
- Getting hurt
- Experiencing dangerous events and traumas
- Witnessing other people getting hurt
- Seeing a dead body
- Childhood trauma
- Feeling of horror, helplessness or extreme fear
- Not having any social support after the event
- Having to deal with other stress after a traumatic event such as loosing a loved one, pain and injury or being displaced due to loss of a home or a job
- History of mental illness or substance abuse
It is important to understand that not all individual who has experienced traumatic events developed PTSD. The truth is, not a lot of people will develop PTSD as some individuals has that resiliency in them or they have adopted a positive coping strategy. Some has good support system or group. Others take it upon themselves to seek support from other people such as friends and family. And some are able to act and respond effectively despite being afraid or in fear.
Who Is Most Likely To Develop PTSD
- War Veterans
- People who have been through physical, mental or sexual abuse
- Individuals who has been through accident, disaster, or other serious events
- Elderly who has experienced a traumatic fall and abuse
According to National Center For PTSD, about 7 or 8 out of every 100 people will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. Women are more likely to develop PTSD than men, and genes may make some people more likely to develop PTSD than others.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder And War Veterans
Justin Miller was a 33-year-old Marine Corps trumpet player and Iraq veteran. On February 2018, after spending four days in the mental health unit in the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Minneapolis, Miller walked to his truck in VA’s parking lot and shot himself.
Miller, according to The Washington Post, was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal thoughts when he checked into the Minneapolis Department of Veterans Affairs hospital. A federal investigation into Miller’s death found that the Minneapolis VA made multiple errors of not scheduling a follow up appointment, failing to communicate with his family about the treatment plan and inadequately assessing his access to firearms.
The Washington Post also wrote that his death is among 19 suicides that occurred on VA campuses from October 2017 to November 2018, in which seven of them were in parking lots. Due to these tragic events with our veterans, experts are worried that this a desperate form of protest against a system that some veterans feel hasn’t helped them.
What is so concerning is that weeks before Christmas, there’s another recent parking lot suicide which occurred in St. Petersburg, Florida. Marine Col. Jim Turner who was 55, killed himself with a rifle outside the Bay Pines Department of Veterans Affairs. Apparently, he was dressed in his uniform and medals and sat on top of his military and VA records when he shot himself.
According to Turners’ relatives, Turner had told them that he was very furious because he wasn’t able to get a mental health appointment that he wanted.
John Toombs, was 32 years old and a former Army sergeant and Afghanistan veteran, who hanged himself on the grounds of the Alvin C. York VA Medical Center in Murfeesboro, Tenn., on Thanksgiving of 2016. David Toombs, his father stated that his son enrolled in an inpatient treatment program for PTSD, substance abuse, depression and anxiety.
But John was kicked out of the program for not following instructions and for not being on time in collecting his medication as documented on his medical records. Toombs apparently was 20 minutes late to pick up his medications the day he was kicked out and had been late several other times and would occasionally leave group sessions early due to anxiety, Rosalinde Burch said.
Rosalinde Burch, was the nurse who closely worked with Toombs in the VA program who was transferred and fired from the program for being outspoken. As published from The Washington Post, she believed that he should have not been kicked out due to those reasons alone as he was making real progress.
According to a recent federal report, veterans are 1.5 times as likely as civilians to die by suicide. In 2016, the veteran suicide rate was 26.1 per 1000,000, compared with 17.4 per 1000,1000 for non-veteran adults.
The System Failed Them… Shouldn’t They Be Honored?
Ways To Manage PTSD For Prevention Of Suicide Amongst Patients
- As a healthcare professional, who has dealt with a lot of patients that has shown suicidal ideation, I believe knowing the signs is the key in prevention and proper management of PTSD and suicide.
- Equip all staff with proper training and an ongoing in services regarding PTSD and how to prevent patients from harming themselves.
- Having policies in place is good but to have enough, qualified and caring people are crucial to this type of patients or individuals.
- To have a process in evaluating the effectiveness of the policies and have the staff be accountable for their actions.
- Thorough mental and behavioral evaluation should be in place.
- Making sure that there is a follow up care or visit scheduled right away and that every plan and process are communicated to family or next of kin.
Signs Of Suicidal Ideation
- Verbalization of wanting to hurt or kill oneself
- Talking about death, dying or suicide
- Asking for pills, guns or other items that can harm themselves
- Verbalization of severe sadness, hopelessness, rage, uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge
- Expression of feeling trapped or there’s no way out
- Being reckless or poor judgment of safety
- Stating that there’s no reason to live
Years ago, I have worked in the VA. Having been employed for a long time in a private hospital, I was able to compare the differences in culture and the way management was then. I didn’t stay long for me to really say too much bad things about their system but in my short stay, which was the reason for leaving, I experienced the lack of care, concern and consistency amongst staff and management.
It was a hard and emotional realization, one that I felt so bad about because I couldn’t do anything about it. Expression of concerns and verbalization of issues to management was very difficult and sort of unheard-of where I worked. The tenure of most staff members were amazing as they have all been there for a long time although they were the one who would make the lives of the new ones difficult.
I remember helping a veteran whose blood sugar was very low one morning. His call light was away from him, so he was having a hard time calling to tell someone that he was not feeling good. So for a while he would throw stuff out his door to catch someones attention.
One of the social worker came by and saw him. She immediately called me as I was the only nurse she saw at that time. I helped the patient but because I was new to the system, I needed help to enter lab requests in the computer so I asked and looked for the nurse assigned to him but I couldn’t find her. So I did what I could and with the help of a good Resident doctor we were able to manage his blood sugar properly.
Few hours after, the nurse assigned to him came back, who happened to be the charge nurse also, I told her what had happened to her patient. She responded with “yeah”. I didn’t see any sign of concern or scare from her face and then non chalantly she sat on her chair.
When she sat down, I noticed that she was holding onto a bagful of snacks from Target. As a nurse, whose on duty, how would one had the time to go to a grocery store and then without telling anyone? Having been in charge all the time, shouldn’t she have that accountability and responsibility to be watching out for all the staff to make sure that all the patients are cared for well and properly?
I went to the assistant manager and reported her and all that she has been doing, as that was not the only one, but the assistant manager didn’t do anything. Instead, they transferred me opposite of her schedule so we would not work together. Sad but true. For the short amount of time that I worked in the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital, I saw and experienced where the system failed.
If you or any of your love ones has experienced PTSD or has any family remember that is a veteran and has sufferred from PTSD, please share your story. If you have questions or comments, please leave them down below.