Silent Suffering

Most likely if someone raises the issue of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), images of soldiers returning home from combat comes to mind. However, how often do we think of the other victims of PTSD? The silent victims? While it is true that soldiers often face PTSD and need to receive treatment, it is also true that the eighth biggest health risk to women is mental illness such as PTSD.[1] Women can contract PTSD after suffering from abuse, sexual assault, or domestic violence. However, despite the fact that one in every three women will experience sexual assault in their lifetime, putting them at risk of PTSD, we do not talk about this problem.[2]

We need to more often acknowledge women like “PK.” She suffered from childhood sexual abuse and an attack at knifepoint. She has now struggled with PTSD for many years and is sharing her story to help raise awareness so other people will also get help for this condition. When she first started showing symptoms, she believed she simply had to pull herself together. Eventually she could live a mostly normal life with just occasional episodes, but her symptoms never fully went away.[3] While she now knows she has PTSD and is working to control her symptoms, it took time for her to recognize this and get treatment. We need to change the narrative of PTSD so that these women who suffer can get the treatment they need before PTSD takes complete control of their lives.

Women should be able to receive the care that they need in order to treat PTSD and other mental illnesses. In countries such as the United States women often have control over their own access to health care. This is not the case in all nations. If a woman does not have the ability to decide her own treatment, she may never be able to receive the care she needs. Additionally, women tend to not seek the specialized care they require even if they have access. This is due to societal pressures to deal with the problem on one’s own.[4] Societal perceptions of what PTSD is and who it effects and how women should handle themselves has led to serious consequences. Women suffering from PTSD have become silent sufferers.

It is time for this to change. We need to change our narrative. PTSD does not only effect military veterans. There may be women suffering silently in your neighborhood, class, or workplace. Help to raise awareness that PTSD can afflict normal people and that it is nothing to feel ashamed of. Only then will more victims get the help they need to heal rather than remaining in the dark.

-by EJ

 

References:

[1] Meredith Miller, “The 10 Biggest Health Issues Facing Women Today,” First Quote Health, 14 June 2018. https://www.firstquotehealth.com/health-insurance-news/womens-health-issues

[2] “Women, Trauma, and PTSD,” U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 13 August 2015. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/PTSD-overview/women/women-trauma-and-ptsd.asp

[3] P.K. Phillips, “My Story of Survival: Battling PTSD,” Anxiety and Depression association of America, https://adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/personal-stories/my-story-survival-battling-ptsd

[4] “Gender and Women’s Mental Health,” World Health Organization, 2018. http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/genderwomen/en/

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