PTSD seems to be an ongoing issue that has yet to establish a clear understanding from the general public. Just this past November, singer and activist Lady Gaga took the opportunity to speak about her PTSD that stemmed from a sexual trauma she experienced when she was 19 years old. While her story was largely publicized (thanks to her brave stance on the issue) the small victory was short lived when British journalist Piers Morgan stated that Lady Gaga’s story was “vain-glorious nonsense” and that only “soldiers returning from the battlefield” can suffer from it.
This of course caused an outrage from the public because one of their stars was being accused of using this diagnosis as the “latest celebrity accessory”. I don’t know if that’s actually the case, but I do know that after all the research and exposure PTSD has gotten over the years; the major consensus still seems to be that military personnel and the diagnosis are one and the same.
What is Trauma?
To understand the issue at hand we need to be clear that Post-traumatic stress disorder can be caused by any traumatic event in our lives. These traumatic events can leave psychological symptoms long after any physical injuries have healed and can be commonly caused by major life events such as:
- Violence and abuse (sexual, emotional, physical)
- Disasters (tsunamis, earthquakes, tornados)
Who Can Develop PTSD?
Anyone that experiences any of the aforementioned traumatic events is at risk to develop PTSD but that doesn’t mean that everyone does. According to research, 70% of all US citizens will experience a traumatic event during their lifetimes. Of that percentage, only 20% will actually experience the symptoms related to it. Surprisingly the research also points out that women are two times as likely to develop PTSD. This mainly has to do with the fact that women are more susceptible to experience violent situations (i.e. domestic and sexual abuse) than their male counterparts.
A Matter of Violence
Despite what these numbers suggest the notion that military personnel are the ones that suffer from the diagnosis continues to be the narrative. Why can’t we focus on the fact that it just affects those that experience trauma regardless of gender or career paths they have chosen? Firemen, Paramedics, Policemen and Nurses witness trauma on a daily basis but are constantly overlooked in regards to this issue. My guess is that society doesn’t really care if the media continues to label us as “ticking time bombs” just as long as they get their daily dose of violence on the news.
That is why this issue will obviously come down to the violent nature that PTSD manifests itself in our society. While women are more relegated to self-harm and emotional issues, men are prone to carry out their pain and suffering through aggression. Anytime we get a report that a Veteran commits suicide or that someone with PTSD goes on a mass killing spree it will only create fear in a world that is already full of exterior threats. This fear is what propels ratings and sales.
Take the recent shooting at the Fort Lauderdale airport for instance. As soon as they mentioned that the assailant was a member of the Armed Forces the media began to focus solely on that aspect of his life. Aside from the quick “this is a terrorists act” reaction from the press, hardly any other news outlet spoke about his environment or any other factors that may have played a role in this incident. It is very difficult to give attention to another population when clearly these type of reports remain in existence.
A Disservice To Women
Regardless of the way we want to portray PTSD, assuming that service members are the ones that can suffer from it only does a disservice to women that want to come forward with their sexual trauma experiences in the future. I’m pretty certain that Lady Gaga’s intention was to raise awareness on behalf of PTSD and all she wanted was for others to be able to get help just as she did. Unfortunately, the result was a nonsensical debate on behalf of someone who clearly is not as versed on the subject as well as he believes he is. It is disappointing to know that people that suffer from any unrelated combat trauma now will have to think twice on telling their stories just because as a society we are not ready to give PTSD the emphasis it deserves. Or who knows; maybe it will become the “latest celebrity accessory” and people will hashtag it as it trends all the way to finally erasing this stigma. #endmentalhealthstigmas
For more information on the research, educational and outreach efforts visit the National Center for PTSD at www.ptsd.va.gov
David J. Ortiz (MSW) is an Iraq war veteran educated in Military Behavioral Health. He is currently focusing his energy towards assisting service members in living well-rounded, productive lives. You can find him occasionally on Twitter as @balancedsoldier and if you want to read some of his past posts you can find them @ facebook.com/balancedsoldierlife/ Also, checkout his Instagram page instagram.com/balancedsoldier if you’re looking for motivational and uplifting content. Namasté