Trauma experiences are very real and the symptoms stemming from these events are nothing to make fun of; however, the word “trigger” has lately been mocked in the media and via many social forums . To those that have experienced horrific events and do in fact have real triggers, this only adds to the stigma placed on mental health issues.
A trigger can be anything; a word, a smell, a sound, a visual similar to a trauma in the slightest way or even something that elicits a similar emotional response. Triggers can cause a downward spiral of stability if one is not careful and self-aware. Unfortunately, many are now using the word “trigger” or asking “oh, are you triggered?” as a way to harass others for their political beliefs or points of view, which is really quite juvenile.
My question is, how is this beneficial or contributing to thoughtful debate? It isn’t of course, but it sure is hurting those that are afflicted with PTSD. It is opening the door for mockery of those that have experienced trauma. If they are open and talk about their condition, it increases the likelihood they may not be taken seriously if they use the word “trigger” to describe what is happening to them. It can increase self-consciousness and possibly make them less likely to seek help. This is all dangerous in a world where mental health issues and suicide are on the rise.
Additionally, people post on their social media pages stating they are always available to talk if someone is feeling suicidal. This is all fine and dandy, however they are also using language and exhibiting behavior that would make me most certainly avoid them if I was in crisis. If you really want to be a combatant against suicide, it is going to take more than publishing a post on the internet to check a figurative box.
Be an obvious friend to those with PTSD, don’t use harmful language and behavior that ostracizes trauma survivors. Making a mockery of sexual assault and victim-blaming contribute to the feeling of persecution for those having experienced sexual assault and harassment.
In the “Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military – Fiscal Year 2015“, a total of 6,083 reports of sexual assault were filed. (1) Be sure to remember that a report does not mean one instance of assault because often times a report is for multiple occurrences. Approximately 25% of women screened at the VA are positive for having experienced an assault. This means 1 in every 4 of our service women are being raped or assaulted with little to nothing being done to protect them.
It should also be acknowledged that men can be survivors of military sexual trauma, not exclusively women. In fact, 65% of male survivors are likely to have lifelong PTSD, quite the increase from 35% of male combat survivors. (2) This means sexual trauma increases the likelihood of developing long-lasting severe PTSD and therefore, an increased risk for suicide. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the posts and comments related to veteran suicide cite combat and ignore other stressors that cause PTSD.
So how can one be a true friend to someone with post-traumatic stress disorder? How can we combat this rampant issue of veteran suicide?
“Actions speak louder than words.” Everyone has heard this old saying. Sure, you can hold walks, running events, rallies, whatever you want; but until you pause and look at yourself, your everyday behaviors, you will not have the same impact as you could as a true ally to survivors of trauma, and that means EVERYONE suffering from its effects, not just those you are comfortable acknowledging.
The message here? Be mindful of your words and actions and how they can affect those around you. We all could stand to reflect a bit, aiming to be more kind and considerate of one another. I’m certain if more people would do this, more lives could be saved.
(NOTE: While searching for a photo or some illustration to use for this post, I had a very difficult time finding anything related to PTSD and veterans without some blatant or subtle combat reference.)