Day puts focus on post-traumatic stress disorder
MANY of us expect to encounter difficult events or circumstances in our lives, but for some people those events can trigger a reaction that makes it difficult to continue their everyday life, job or relationship.
Clinical psychologists are reporting an increase in posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, particularly in certain professions such as the military, police, ambulance, firefighters and prison officers.
Douglas Brewer, psychologist clinical co-ordinator of trauma recovery programs at Hollywood Clinic, regularly treats people in these occupations. Mr Brewer said he was seeing an increase in PTSD sufferers, particularly among people who have returned from active military service overseas and in those who work in detention centres.
“With the returning of soldiers in the Middle East we have seen an increase in contemporary veterans being referred with posttraumatic stress disorder,” Mr Brewer said.
“They are usually referred to us once they have left the military and are starting to realise that something is wrong and they are not able to fix it.
“It often shows up in terms of difficulties in relationships, maintaining employment and over-reliance on alcohol and/or drugs to manage their emotional difficulties.”
Mr Brewer said he had patients who had been struggling with their emotions for a long time, often years.
“They are not sleeping, withdrawing from life, from friends, or just disappear and end up in a doctor’s surgery,” he said.
“When their doctor finds out they had a frontline job dealing with often horrific circumstances, such as returning from war, the penny drops that they have PTSD.”
Mr Brewer said recovering from PTSD was as not easy as some people thought.
“What people are not fully aware of is there is a high incident rate of failure to recover from the kind of trauma experienced by police, ambulance, firefighters and I am seeing an increasing number of people working who have worked as a prison officer,” he said.
“The difficulty of working in those environments is the demand of constantly having to deal with traumatic events and the recovery rate is not good. When we used to treat Vietnam vets we would talk about the treatment of symptoms, now we talk about looking for recovery and growth.
“It is not something we should accept as a lifelong event as treatment is available.”