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Professionals Working to Destigmatize PTSD

Discussion in 'News, Politics & Debates' started by batgirl, Oct 31, 2007.

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  1. batgirl

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    When Carroll Jenkins looks back over the past six years, he can’t help but credit the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks for creating a broader understanding of post traumatic stress disorder. For a psychotherapist specializing in PTSD, that’s a good thing.

    “It seems like our society has to get hit right upside the head, pretty hard, to get it,” Jenkins said Friday. “I think we’ve got it this time. I’ve been battling this sucker for years. To see people sit around talking about PTSD the way they are now — we’re destigmatizing it.”

    Jenkins was recently contracted by the Montana National Guard to help train therapists across the state in recognizing and dealing with PTSD. Now, nearly a month later, he’ll help the Montana Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers in a related conference to be held in Helena next month. John Wilkinson, executive director of NASW-MT, said the organization will host what’s believed to be the largest conference ever held in the state dedicated entirely to post-combat stress and veteran care.

    One finding by the state PTSD task force, created by the Montana National Guard earlier this year, recommended building stronger support across the community in tackling the issue, which some fear could be one of the current war’s lasting legacies. It’s a recommendation Wilkinson has taken to heart in organizing next month’s conference.

    “We’re still too distant — we’re all still doing our own thing,” he said. “We’re doing it with extraordinary commitment and focus but the players, by and large, aren’t talking with one another.”

    The two-day conference hopes to unite professionals who serve in the clinical community across Montana and educate them on the needs of veterans and their families. Wilkinson hopes the conference creates a clinical dialogue across a wider spectrum of providers while improving access to care for veterans. Montana, he noted, has more than 100,000 veterans, or nearly one person in every 10. Per capita, the state also had the highest recruitment into the U.S. Army when compared to other states in 2004 and 2005.

    “You would almost think that once they’d been (in combat), they’d know how to deal with it — they’d be battle hardened,” Wilkinson said. “But the literature indicates that that’s not supported by the data. With repeated exposures, the risk of PTSD increases.”

    The conference itself notes a long list of experts in various fields, including Dr. Rosa Merino, the state’s chief of behavioral health, who will lecture on combat stress related disorders. The two-day event also includes Beeta Homaifer, a postdoctoral fellow in advanced psychology at the Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center, who will talk on traumatic brain injury; and India Bower, a clinical social worker who will discuss therapeutic approaches for treating combat related stress.

    “They’re coming to understand that this is a traumatic experience that happens to this 3-pound thing called the brain,” said Jenkins. “They understand that this is a wound of war. We have destigmatized mental illness to the degree that PTSD is now just something else that happens to you.”

    Last month, with the help of Jim Smith and Kristin Best, Jenkins trained 35 therapists at Fort Harrison in response to the National Guard’s task force recommendations.After the session, the team selected 15 of those therapists to cover the state, holding workshops on the topic with Montana National Guard soldiers.

    “Every National Guard soldier in Montana has been trained in PTSD,” Jenkins said. “We put in place 44 military one-source providers. There are now almost 80 providers trained or (who) know something about combat PTSD.”

    Source: Martin J. Kidston, Independent Record
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