Rescuing The Rescuer:First Responders Make Moves To Combat P.T.S.D.

Taken from the  Miami Herald  which can be found   HERE.

The parents and two children were still alive as their car was engulfed in flames, but they were trapped. The fire left their bodies charred.

It was days before Christmas.

“This happened about 10 years ago. We immediately had to go get counseling and talk about it,” said Carlos Henriquez, tears in his eyes. The longtime firefighter for the city of Hialeah was one of the first on the scene.

“It’s a vision I can never take out of my head; I’ll never forget it. It was a horrible. You could see them screaming. We tried so hard to get them out, but there was nothing we could do.”

Police officers, firefighters, dispatchers, ambulance personnel and other first responders can suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder if traumatic experiences such as this are not addressed, research shows.

PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. It is often associated with members of the military, but is not limited to them.

Compared to non-emergency workers, first responders experience higher rates of psychiatric symptoms such as depression, alcohol abuse, sleep disturbances, anxiety disorders and suicidal thoughts, studies have found.

“The numbers are staggering,” said Daniel Fernandez, Hialeah Fire Department’s chief of training, who handles the city’s critical incident stress management program.

“From the beginning we are taught to put on this mask, this facade, that we’re tough and that we don’t let things get to us but, but truthfully it does,” Henriquez said.

In the last year, the Hialeah Fire Department has made significant moves to battle PTSD. It doesn’t just hold the standard group debriefing sessions after major incidents. Now, the department has on-call peer counselors available around the clock.

Fire Lt. Scott Disbrow is one of them.

“In the past, everyone has kept things bottled up,” Disbrow said. “The feedback we are getting is that people are open to talking; that they need someone to listen. As bottled up as we’ve kept it so long, we are turning that corner.”

The sessions are confidential and can be as formal or informal as desired. One day they can take place in the office, another day at the station’s kitchen table.

“We want to make sure our members are aware that they have resources,” Fernandez said, “even if that means attaching brochures to paychecks and posting them behind toilets and urinals.”

Some symptoms of PTSD are behavioral — agitation, irritability, hostility, hypervigilance, self-destructive behavior, social isolation, emotional detachment or unwanted thoughts. Others are psychological — flashbacks, fear, severe anxiety or mistrust. Some affect a person’s mood and sleeping patterns — loss of interest or pleasure in activities, guilt, loneliness, insomnia or nightmares.

At any time, between 7 percent and 37 percent of firefighters meet the criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD, said Matthew Tull, an associate professor and director of anxiety disorders research in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

“It is clear from these studies that there is a big range in PTSD rates among firefighters,” Tull said. “This is likely due to a number of reasons, including how PTSD was assessed (through a questionnaire or interview), whether other emergency responders were also surveyed along with the firefighters, whether the firefighters were volunteered or not and where the firefighters worked.”

Tull added that one of the most important protective factors is having social support available either at home or through work. Having effective coping strategies available could lessen the impact of experiencing multiple traumatic events, he said.

“This is not surprising in that, among people in general, the availability of social support and effective coping strategies have consistently been found to reduce the risk for developing PTSD following a traumatic event,” Tull said.

In recent years, the Hialeah department has lost a handful of firefighters and a firefighter’s spouse to suicide. That, mixed with heart-wrenching service calls and lack of communication, opens a door to the psychiatric disorder.

“Sometimes you walk into a call and realize that the little girl that didn’t make it had the same shoes your daughter has. Or the same dress. Or the same name,” said Fire Lt. Ruben Cantillo, who leads Hialeah Fire’s chaplaincy program, which also works to prevent PTSD.

“Chaplaincy is one of the elements and tools to help our members deal with certain tragedies or things they have on their minds that come up time to time,” Cantillo said. “These things have a way of sneaking up on you. I had guys tell me it’s a Rolodex of things in their heads that they go through before they go to sleep or when they go home to see their children.”

PTSD isn’t new, said Miami Beach Police Chief Daniel Oates,who was chief of police for the city of Aurora, Colorado, in 2012 when there was a mass shooting at a midnight screening of a movie.

The gunman, dressed in tactical clothing, set off tear gas grenades and shot into the audience with multiple guns. Twelve people were killed and about 70 others were injured.

“[PTSD] always been an issue. I just think that as a profession, we are much more conscious of it in recent years. I don’t think it’s new, I think our consciousness of it is,” Oates said.

Two months ago the Miami Beach Police Department also rolled out a peer-support system for police officers, a strategy that has since helped spot problems that might require a higher level of professional engagement. As in Hialeah, a first responder who needs more care is referred to that city’s psychiatrist.

“It’s an additional option for an officer who is coping with the strain on the job,” Oates said. “Sometimes all an officer needs to hear is that they aren’t alone and that they should go see somebody.”

Oates added: “The theory is that cops now have someone to talk to. There have always been those options,” he said, but a cop who is wary about talking to a supervisor might open up to a peer officer who is familiar.

Pamela Kulbarsh, a psychiatric nurse for more than 25 years, has worked with law enforcement in crisis intervention for the past decade in San Diego, California, and Tucson, Arizona.

One-third of active-duty and retired officers have suffered from post-traumatic stress, but most don’t realize it, she said.

“Not every call ends when the paperwork is filed,” Kulbarsh said. “PTSD is far more rampant in law enforcement than anyone is really willing to discuss. PTSD statistics for [active-duty] law enforcement officers are hard to obtain, but range from 4 to 14 percent. The discrepancy in this range may be due to under-reporting. Living through a traumatic event is hard enough for an officer. Admitting that you are having problems related to that event is even harder.”

An estimated 150,000 officers develop symptoms of PTSD, Kulbarsh said. For every police suicide, almost 1,000 officers work while suffering symptoms of the disorder.

“Law enforcement officers are also at a much higher rate of developing a cumulative form of PTSD related to their exposure to multiple traumatic events,” she said.

Roddy Monsivais, a former Homeland Security lieutenant, said although more cities in South Florida are adding programs for current law enforcement officers, they fall short for first responders who have already retired.

“Imagine seeing all you’ve seen for 30 years straight and then going home one day to nothing. I had a friend who was quick to say hello to his Glock and pulled the trigger in the parking lot right before his doctor’s appointment,” said Monsivais, who is state president of the National Latino Peace Officers Association.

He added: “The biggest issue these officers face is not having someone to talk to along the way. What are you gonna tell your family? I picked up the pieces of a dead person today? Who are you going to tell when the PTSD kicks in? How about after all those years of holding … all of that stuff in? Who do you call when you go to sleep and wake up in a cold sweat?”

Sharon A. Israel, who works in the emergency medical services division for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, said the county has been working with local municipalities for decades. Most recently, the county created a survey to help assess one’s own mental health. The interactive survey asks yes-or-no questions that when tallied, will help the employee identify symptoms of depression, addiction, PTSD or suicidal thoughts and know when to seek help.

“It is critical that first responders understand that asking for help, when needed, is a sign of strength, not weakness,” Israel said.

For now, Hialeah Fire Department’s Cantillo said the city’s goal is to have three or four peer leaders available on-call per shift. Right now there is one per shift.

“It’s very important for us to take care of each other,” Cantillo said. “Sometimes you can’t forget what you see. You try to press the reset button, put it in a little box and try to file it away. The time has come, we can’t can’t put this off to the side forever.”

Fire engineer Paul Garcia nodded as Cantillo spoke.

“A lot of people in society see that we’re the help,” Garcia said. “But they don’t think about that we need help too sometimes.”

Pets Help People Manage The Pain Of Serious Mental Illness

Taken from NPR  which can be found   HERE.

Any pet owner will tell you that their animal companions comfort and sustain them when life gets rough. This may be especially true for people with serious mental illness, a study finds. When people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder were asked who or what helped them manage the condition, many said it was pets that helped the most.

“When I’m feeling really low they are wonderful because they won’t leave my side for two days,” one study participant with two dogs and two cats, “They just stay with me until I am ready to come out of it.”

Another person said of their pet birds: “If I didn’t have my pets I think I would be on my own. You know what I mean, so it’s — it’s nice to come home and, you know, listen to the birds singing and that, you know.”

Many people with serious mental illness live at home and have limited contact with the health care system, says Helen Brooks, a mental health researcher at University of Manchester in the United Kingdom and the lead author on the study, which was published Friday in the journal BMC Psychiatry. So they’re doing a lot of the work of managing their conditions.

Brooks says, “Many felt deep emotional connections with their pet that weren’t available from friends and family.”

Brooks and her colleagues interviewed 54 people with serious long-term mental illnesses. Twenty-five of them considered their pets to be a part of their social network. The scientists asked who they went to when they needed help or advice, where they gained emotional support and encouragement and how they spent their days.

The participants were then given a diagram with three consecutive circles radiating out from a square representing the participant. They were asked to write the people, places and things that gave them support into the circles, with the circles closest to the center being the most important.

Sixty percent of the people who considered pets to be a part of their social networks placed them in the central, most important circle — the same place many people put close family and social workers. 20 percent placed pets in the second circle.

The interviews with participants are poignant, and reveal the struggle and isolation that can come with mental illness.

“I think it’s really hard when you haven’t had a mental illness to know what the actual experience is [like],” said one participant. “There’s like a chasm, deep chasm between us … [Other people are] on one side of it, and we’re on the other side of it. We’re sending smoke signals to each other to try and understand each other but we don’t always — we don’t always understand.”

People with mental illnesses often see their social groups shrink and find themselves alienated from their friends. For many of these people, says Brooks, animals can break through the isolation. They give affection without needing to understand the disorder.

“[Pets] don’t look at the scars on your arms,” one participant said. “They don’t question where you’ve been.”

The pets provided more than just emotional support and companionship, participants said. The animals also could distract them from their illness, even from severe psychosis.

One study participant placed birds in his closest social circle. When he was hearing voices, he said that they “help me in the sense, you know, I’m not thinking about the voices, I’m just thinking of when I hear the birds singing.”

Another participant said that merely seeing a hamster climbing the bars on the cage and acting cute helped with some difficult situations.

And having to take care of pets keeps people from withdrawing from the world. “They force me, the cats force me to sort of still be involved,” said one participant.

Another said that walking the dog helped them get out of the house and with people. “That surprised me, you know, the amount of people that stop and talk to him, and that, yeah, it cheers me up with him. I haven’t got much in my life, but he’s quite good, yeah.”

“The routine these pets provide is really important for people,” says Brooks. “Getting up in the morning to feed them and groom them and walk them, giving them structure and a sense of purpose that they won’t otherwise have.”

Many of the study participants are unemployed because of their illness, she notes. Having a pet that was well taken care of was a source of pride for them.

Mark Longsjo, the program director of adult services at McLean Southeast, an inpatient mental facility in Middleborough, Mass., says that the interviews in the study reflect his professional experiences. “We have so many patients come through, and we always ask them about their support system. Sometimes its family members, sometimes its friends, but it’s very common to hear about pets.”

When he does patient intake surveys, Longsjo says that he includes pets in their risk assessments. Patients with pets often say the animals help keep them from following through on suicidal thinking, because they know their pets depend on them.

The social workers at McLean also incorporate pets into their aftercare planning, encouraging patients to make walking and grooming their pets a part of their routine. “I think there’s significant value in considering the common everyday pet to be as important as the relationships one has with one’s family in the course of their treatment,” says Longsjo. He feels this study is important because, although there’s a lot of work looking at the benefits of trained therapy animals, they can be expensive and out of the reach of many patients.

Brooks hopes that more health workers will consider incorporating pets into care plans for people with mental illness. Many of her participants said that sometimes it felt like their pets could sense when they needed help the most, and were able to provide it — just like the owners took care of them.

As one person in the study said, “When he comes up and sits beside you on a night, it’s different, you know. It’s just, like, he needs me as much as I need him.”

Sexual Abusers: Abusers And True Repentance

Originally posted in September, 2011.

Many who suffer with a mental illness arrived at that place in their lives due to some type of  past sexual abuse.  This article, written by Philip Monroe, who has a blog listed here, tackles a very delicate topic.  I chose to print this article with two things in mind.  1)  For the well being of the victim by not rushing in and offering forgiveness where the fruits of true repentance don’t exist.  2)  To remind us that the worst of sinners can be forgiven.

In no way is this article intended to be a means to cause any condemnation to victims of abuse.  Nor is it intended to create any pressure to make a huge decision you aren’t comfortable with.

I pray that God would use this article to work out His perfect will for those who have been victimized and also for the victimizer.  Allan


As a psychologist and seminary professor, I frequently entertain questions about the timeline for forgiveness and reconciliation in situations of domestic or familial sexual abuse. Most frequently, church leaders want to know when it is appropriate to encourage a victim of abuse to allow an offender back into the home or life.

These questions sometimes originate for quite different reasons. Some ask due to fear that once abuser and victim are separated, reconciliation is made much more unlikely. Others ask because it seems that the abuser is not being forgiven in a timely manner. Still others want to know how to discern whether the abusive person is genuinely repentant. It is this last question that I think merits the most attention. How do you know when an abusive person is adequately repentant, and therefore, capable of providing a safe environment for others to live in? The answer, of course, is found in the fruit they produce.

Honest admission.

When God’s people encounter his holiness, they often fall on their faces and admit the state of their soul (e.g., Moses, Isaiah, Paul). They make no pretense of being clean and they do not look to excuse their behavior or blame others (“I might be 60% responsible, but she’s responsible too.”). They do not attempt to manage their image as Saul did when confronted by Samuel (1 Samuel 15:14f). In appropriate settings they willingly reveal secret sins that had not been known. This honesty should be permanent rather than temporary. If another should bring up their sins decades later, they should be capable of admitting what is true without defensiveness or undue shame.

Does the abuser:

openly acknowledge abusive behavior and its impact on the victim?

accept full responsibility for actions without excuse?

accept the consequences of the abuse without demand for trust or forgiveness?

Sacrificial efforts to repair.

The story of  Zacchaeus provides a wonderful illustration of the fruit of repentance in the life of a man who profited by abusing others with his power. He does not shy away from the sniggering comments of others, but publicly promises to pay back all he has cheated plus four times more (probably twice as much as the Law required!). Not only that, but he willingly gives half of his wealth to feed the poor.

Jesus describes the kingdom of God as having so much worth that a true disciple joyfully gives all to acquire it (Matthew 13:44-46). The repentant abuser sees the value of restoration and joyfully gives all to obtain it. He no longer sees his rights as something to hold on to, but immediately thinks of how he can sacrificially put the interests of others before his own. Further, he does not demand acknowledgment of this sacrificial effort to undo the wrong done. Sadly, the opposite fruit seems more prevalent. The abuser strives to protect personal interests (e.g., an unwillingness to pay for counseling costs of the victim), attempts to compromise (I’ll pay for counseling if you won’t report the abuse to the authorities), or uses children to gain leverage (the children will be hurt if I am out of the home)

Does the abuser:

spontaneously seek to make restitution (not penance!) or to offer economic support without demand for things in return?

give physical and emotional space for the victim to receive help from others?

Accepts and flourishes under discipline.

When caught in abusive or addictive behavior, individuals commonly make immediate changes in their behavior. They stop certain problematic behaviors and start healthier ones (e.g., returns to church, reads the Bible, goes to counseling). We commend these behaviors. However, Jesus warns the disciples (Matthew 12-13; the story of the house swept clean and the parable of the soils) about the problem of reading initial reactions to the Gospel. Time and cultivation are required. The repentant abuser willingly submits to the loving discipline of the Church. When adequate ministry to him is not available, he pursues it until he finds it. He does not demand time limits or the entitlement to be forgiven. He accepts the intrusion of accountability partners and sees their work not as police work, but as discipleship.

Does the abuser:

accept the ministry of discipline, accountability, counseling, etc. with joy?

acknowledge that the fruit of change takes time to develop and so sees discipleship as a lifetime project?

show evidence of a growing life of prayer, reading of the Word and increasing measure of the fruits of the Spirit?

Be careful.

A word of caution to those whose job it is to assess the level of change in an abuser. There are two errors we must avoid. It is easy to classify abusers as subhuman and unable to ever change. If we fall into this error, we may be tempted to prejudge their ability to change, thereby encouraging greater defensiveness on their part. The power of the cross changes the worst of sinners (including ourselves). These men and women deserve God’s grace as much as any. The second error is that of being thrown off by external issues that may not have much to do with repentance. Those who are charming and well-spoken (especially those who use spiritual language) may tempt you to ignore fruit that is inconsistent with repentance. Also, when victims are less likable due to their own interpersonal demeanor, it is tempting to excuse abusive behavior.

It is wise to seek supervision during this process and to remember that you participate in the Lord’s work and that He will accomplish refinement in his children, including you!
Philip Monroe, PsyD., is Associate Professor of Counseling and Psychology and the Director of the MA in Counseling Program at Biblical Seminary in Hatfield, Pennsylvania. He is also a licensed psychologist and practicing counselor.

A Few Thoughts On Today’s Tragedy At Ohio State University

Today was like any other day. I woke up and a little later turned on the news. CNN and Fox were breaking a story of some sort of attack at the school that had sent 11 people to the hospital and the culprit killed by police before he could do any more harm.

The networks were slow in giving out information as rushing to get the scoop often leads to erroneous reporting. I’m sure we’ll get more specific information as the investigation continues.

We pray for those who were injured as well as for their friends and families.

There were many other victims today that you may never read about and I’d like to talk about them a little bit. I’ll start with the witnesses of this senseless act. I’ll also add the countless number of students who were on lock down not quite knowing what had happened. I’m sure many of them were fearing for their lives. I’ll include the first responders who rush towards danger not knowing what they’ll encounter. All of these individuals were quite aware of crimes like this taking place on college campuses and other schools in the not so distant past.

Once today’s events at OSU had been brought under control the networks got back to other stories. In time today’s episode will be but a memory as other stories will replace them.

Having posted about so many tragedies through the years be it earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, and so many senseless acts of violence I always think about the victims we typically never hear about but whose lives have been traumatized.

We all know the term Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and quite often associate it with our brave soldiers who selflessly serve our nation. Yet there are scores of others who are impacted by this illness. Below is an excerpt from the link above that adds to the definition.

“Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

Many people who go through traumatic events have difficulty adjusting and coping for a while, but they don’t have PTSD — with time and good self-care, they usually get better. But if the symptoms get worse or last for months or even years and interfere with your functioning, you may have PTSD.”

 The above describes various groups of people. Rape victims, automobile accident victims, robbery victims, victims of natural disasters, and many other traumatizing events.
The above list also includes those at OSU that I mentioned above. There will be those who will develop PTSD as a result of what took place today. Our minds simply aren’t wired for such trauma. That’s why there will be counseling made available for those impacted today.
Professionals know from past events what to expect and they’ll do all they can to get help for those who request it. My mind turns to those who were already dealing with a mental illness who were impacted today. What happened may have been enough to trigger them into a very difficult place.
Maybe you’ve been traumatized but due to stigma or something else you haven’t come forward for help. This could be your time as help is available.
God’s love for us is unconditional. He does not see us as weak, faithless, or backslidden because we suffer in our minds. Below are a few links for you to look at.
Do you have a trusted friend who will listen to you share your pain?  Call them.
Do you have a trusted person on staff at church you can trust to speak with you without casting judgment?  Make an appointment.
There are times we might need professional counseling. Maybe that’s a route for you.
Finally and maybe most importantly read promises to us from God’s word. So many of us feel His promises aren’t for us. They are. Below is the truth for each of us.
Matthew 10: 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

After Being Punished for His Suicide Attempt, a US Veteran Is Fighting for Others with PTSD

Taken from Vice News  which is found   HERE.

PTSD has affected about 20 percent of Iraq war veterans, according to the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and its symptoms can often lead to discharges, although proper diagnosis is hardly a given. Leaving the military with anything less than an honorable discharge can preclude veterans from receiving government benefits.

“Other-than-honorable discharges are done administratively — it’s an officer filing a piece of paper, and a few weeks later a combat veteran could be out [of the Army],” Goldsmith said. “That’s the problem with these less-than-honorable discharges, they’re punitive, are so easy to issue, and they have such dramatic effects on the lives of veterans.”

The night of the attempted suicide, Goldsmith’s best friend, Steve Acheson, and a group of military police found him passed out in a field at Fort Stewart military base in Georgia, where both men were stationed.

Goldsmith had been staying with Acheson — the pair had graduated from basic training tied at the top of their class — and Acheson’s then-wife at a rented house about 5 miles off-base in Hinesville, Georgia. Goldsmith had been recovering from surgery for a deviated septum while awaiting deployment, which had been delayed for a month because of the operation.

Acheson had been sleeping after a 24-hour duty shift when he woke sometime after midnight to use the bathroom. On his way past Goldsmith’s bedroom, Acheson noticed the light was on; he poked his head in to say hi, but realized the room was empty. He then saw that Goldsmith had not packed for his deployment, which was supposed to be the next morning, and that notes and photos of Goldsmith’s family and friends were strewn on the bed. Acheson immediately called military police to tell them he thought Goldsmith might be attempting suicide, and rushed to the base wearing only flip-flops and shorts. He had a feeling that Goldsmith had headed to the parade field, where trees had been planted for every soldier in their unit who had died in combat.

“I figured, if I was going to kill myself, that’s where I’d do it,” Acheson said.

The team fanned out across the grounds, and soon one of the military police officers found Goldsmith lying unconscious on a mound of red ants.

“Kris had gone through some pretty intense things while deployed that drastically changed who he was when he returned,” Acheson said. “Did I think Kris had PTSD? At that time, I was only 22 years old, and unclear of what PTSD even was myself.”

After being brought to the psychiatric ward of Winn Army Community Hospital at Fort Stewart, Goldsmith drifted in and out of consciousness for two days. About a week later, he told doctors that his suicide attempt had been a “fluke” and managed to convince them he wasn’t depressed in order to secure a speedy release.

“I was on a psych ward with guys who were actually crazy,” he said. “The doctors on the ward told me that I’d be up there as long as they wanted me to be, which felt like a threat. [It] was more terrifying than being in Iraq. I had little to no contact with the outside world and was treated like a prisoner.”

Two weeks after doctors released Goldsmith back to the base, the Army issued him two Article-15 non-judicial punishments related to his suicide attempt. One was for “missing movement,” or failing to get on his flight to Iraq, and the other was for “malingering” — in this case, feigning a mental illness to escape duty. Goldsmith invoked his right to reject the punishments and demanded a court-martial. But he never got his trial.

Not long after his release from the hospital, Goldsmith’s parents, who live in New York, contacted their then–senator, Hillary Clinton, and asked her to intervene in their son’s case.

“Once the congressional inquiry about my situation came down to the unit, they halted the Article-15 proceedings and discharged me from the Army as quickly as they possibly could,” Goldsmith said. “Next thing I knew I was 21 and living back in my childhood bedroom, with no idea how to get care at the [VA] — or that I was even eligible for it.”

Up until his discharge in August 2007, Goldsmith had a spotless military record. He joined the army at 18, graduated from basic training at the top of his class in 2004, and by 19 was serving his first tour in Iraq. He remembers spending his 20th birthday in the Sheraton Hotel in Baghdad, overlooking the city and watching car bombs explode in the distance.

“I never engaged in house-to-house fighting or any heroic stuff you see in the movies,” he said. “What my job ended up being was like the photo documentarian of my platoon, and in some cases that was just taking pictures of whatever we were doing. But frequently it was taking pictures of dead kids that were tossed on the side of the road with signs of torture on their bodies.

“At the age of 19 or 20, I didn’t possess the ability to really shake that off,” he said.

In the Army, Goldsmith was well-liked and respected by his peers and superiors, who twice recommended him for the Bronze Star. He was promoted faster than many of his fellow soldiers in his unit, attaining the rank of sergeant in two years. But after his return from Iraq, he suffered from insomnia and began drinking heavily while off duty.

“Kris was fast-tracking through the ranks quicker than any other Forward Observer at Fort Stewart,” Acheson said. “He was pretty much a straight-edge kid before we deployed — no drugs, no smoking, no drinking. After our return from deployment, I watched him turn into a destructive person, drinking every night, taking risks, becoming reckless in his personal life. His career and reputation as a sergeant remained intact… [even though] he was suffering on the inside.”

Goldsmith said that “the last straw” precipitating his suicide attempt occurred after his brigade was issued with stop loss orders. Stop-loss policy, or the involuntary extension of duty for service members, was frequently invoked in the years after 9/11 and affected an estimated 58,000 soldiers until its use was stemmed shortly after President Barack Obama took office in 2008. For Goldsmith, a stop-loss order meant another 16 months in Iraq, and the thought triggered panic attacks at work that led to his adjustment disorder diagnoses.

In the months after his suicide attempt and discharge, Goldsmith continued to drink heavily and spent all of his savings. But with prompting from his mother, Goldsmith eventually sought psychiatric help at the VA; he was diagnosed with PTSD in November 2007. Without the help of VA doctors and his family, Goldsmith says, he would have likely died. Now 30 years old and a political science student at Columbia University, Goldsmith continues pushing for the Veterans Fairness Act, which has stalled in the Senate since its introduction last June.

Senator Gary Peters, a Democrat from Michigan and a Navy Reserve officer who introduced the bill, told VICE News that the bill is intended to rectify the “gross injustice of unfair dismissals.” He says there’s also a need for better training for members of the military, including commanders, in recognizing the symptoms of PTSD.

“The VA has been specifically trained and we work very hard to make sure people who have those symptoms who are suffering have been diagnosed and get the care that they deserve and need,” Peters said. “But we know there are folks who are falling through the cracks.”

An attempt to attach the bill to the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2016 failed, but Peters says it has bipartisanship support.

“Stand-alone bills don’t move as quickly as any of us like in the Senate, so we need have a vehicle that we can attach it to,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean we’re going to stop. We’re going to continue to build support so that when we have the proper vehicle, we’ll be able to attach this language to it.”

This month, a companion bill will also be introduced to the House — likely in the last week of February, according to a spokesman for the bill’s chief sponsor, Republican Mike Coffman of Colorado. Coffman, who is a Marine Corps combat veteran and member of the House Armed Services and House Veterans Affairs committees, is also introducing a bill this month that would allow the VA to conduct an initial mental health assessment, and offer counseling and other services for veterans with other-than-honorable discharges who are currently ineligible for services.


Goldsmith’s appeals of his less-than-honorable discharge have been rejected twice by a review board; he says the Army argued that he could not prove he acquired the disorder while serving in the military, and that he may have developed it in the three months between his discharge in August and his PTSD diagnosis in November. He is appealing again while also continuing to fight for passage of the bill.

“It’s simply asking for a more fair appeals process, so it’s shifting the burden of proof in favor of the vet if they have PTSD or TBI and that diagnosis materially contributed to the circumstances of their discharge,” he said. “That’s essentially legalese for saying, ‘People shouldn’t be punished for coming home all messed up.'”

PTSD And Suicide Attempts Are Rampant In Our Service,” Says Ontario, Canada Paramedics And First Responders

Taken from  Caledon Enterprise Canada  which is found  HERE.

Ontario Advanced Care Paramedic Natalie Harris is a survivor.

After attending a call in 2012 where two nearly decapitated women lay dead, leaving Harris tasked with caring for the naked man lying next to them suffering from self-inflicted knife wounds – she was, needless to say, deeply disturbed.

But Harris, who served Peel Paramedics years prior to this call, says that it wasn’t until she had to testify for the incident two years later that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) surfaced, followed by a long road of mental health struggles, and eventually an attempt to take her own life.

Unfortunately, her story is not unique when it comes to first responders.

According to the Tema Conter Memorial Trust, Canada’s leading provider of peer-support, family assistance, and training for public safety and military personnel dealing with Operational Stress and PTSD, 39 first responders and 12 military personnel commit suicide in 2015.

So far in 2016, the Trust says that four first responders have already been lost to suicide across the country.

“It’s obviously a trend that we are not happy with,” said Vince Savoia, the founder of the Trust. “It raises a ton of concerns.”

Harris could not agree more, and feels as though it’s time for change.

“I’m lucky. I’m here, I survived,” she said. “But PTSD and suicide attempts are rampant in our service.”

After “multiple hospital stays, hiding behind stigma forever and trying to appear perfect,” she decided to share her story in hopes of helping other first responders suffering in silence.

Now, two years after starting her blog Paramedic Nat’s Mental Health Journey and championing the cause to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and specifically PTSD in first responders, she is kick-starting a network of peer support groups for people who experience extreme trauma in their positions.

Backed and supported by groups such as the Tema Conter Foundation, Wings of Change is a model made for peer support meetings to be run for peers, by peers, on a regular basis.

“Not just after a difficult call or something that needs to be debriefed,” she explained.

The initiative is open to all first responders, military members, communications officers and healthcare providers – professional or volunteer – in order for them to have access to anonymous, solution-based discussion and education regarding any occupational trauma.

While the contacts for Wings of Change may be provided via an employer, they are not involved in the facilitation.

Harris launched the program Monday (Feb. 1) and she has already had immense interest.

The launch also comes in perfect time with an announcement also made Monday (Feb. 1) by Ontario’s government for a new PTSD strategy for first responders.

The Province’s new prevention strategy has four major elements focused around items like increasing awareness, online tool kits with resources on PTSD, and grants to support evidence based research, but none of the elements tackle what is needed right now: immediate mental health support for first responders currently suffering from PTSD.

“I am a huge supporter for evidence based research, but in the mean time, there are first responders dying and for me, as a survivor of an overdose and suicide attempts – going online and clicking on a link about PTSD and how to cope is about one per cent of what I needed to recover,” Harris said.

“The main thing that we are lacking in Ontario is the legislation which says that if a first responder is diagnosed with PTSD – it is to be presumed that it comes from our work world.”

NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo has been lobbying for presumptive legislation for nearly seven years.

“The government is well aware of my bill and they’ve been promising to act,” she told The Enterprise. “Although we welcome any announcement on PTSD, the simple reality is the law has still not changed and workers are not covered under WSIB.”

Manitoba and Alberta already recognize PTSD as work-related for first responders, but at the moment in Ontario, WSIB requires proof as to where the illness stemmed from.

“What this means is that these people are having to recount traumatic events over and over for years, not getting coverage for the care that they need immediately and becoming re-traumatized in the process,” Harris continued. “We need this legislation now and once it is implemented, we might have people suffering who could participate in that research but at the moment it’s not really on their priority list, they need to pay their bills and feed their family while they wait for this support.”

A Drug To Cure Fear?

Taken from the New York Times  which is found   HERE.