Communities observe PTSD Awareness Month

Published 2:13 pm Thursday, June 29, 2023

By Haley Mitchell Godwin

Editor’s note: This article discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, don’t hesitate to contact the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

June is recognized as PTSD Awareness Month, a time dedicated to increasing public awareness about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), reducing the associated stigma, and ensuring those affected receive treatment and support.
The American Psychological Association defines PTSD as an anxiety problem that develops in some people after extremely traumatic events, such as combat, crime, an accident or natural disaster. While trauma is the root cause, it inspires overwhelming symptoms – including night sweats, panic attacks, flashbacks and more – that make the condition diagnosable.

Email newsletter signup

Though no one is immune to PTSD, rates of the disorder among combat veterans and those that work in emergency services are significantly higher than the rates among the general population. Many who experience PTSD are dealing with invisible wounds, especially veterans. According to one Vietnam combat veteran from Brantley, it’s important to understand that as long as there have been wars, two battles have been fought; one on the battlefield — and one in the mind.

For the veteran, who preferred to remain anonymous, having a strong support system within his family has been the key to living life to the fullest while dealing with PTSD. However, he is glad that he finally took advantage of outside help.

“I think a lot of veterans asssume if they go to the VA for something like PTSD it will take away from other veterans that may be in worse shape,” the veteran said. “But it won’t. I used to tell myself to just get over it, and it worked, for the main part. However, finally checking to see if anything could help me out a little ended up being worth it. Whether you had PTSD or not, war is war and we were all glad when it was over and we were at home.”

The USDVA estimates that around 8 million adults in the United States, roughly 5% of the country’s population, experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) each year.

According to Karen Ann Sullins, M.S., LPC, founder and president of Healing Hearts to Resiliency, Inc. based in Highland Home traumatic experiences and PTSD can affect anyone, affects many more than most realize, and can also impact the entire family of the sufferer.

“Although there are still strides to be made, I am hopeful that more conversations are being had and emphasis is being placed on training as our first responders and veterans are being exposed to trauma at alarmingly elevated levels,” Sullins said. “Child abuse and trauma numbers have sky rocketed since the pandemic and closure of schools. Violence is the leading cause of traumatic stress, which is now prevalent in our country as the Surgeon General declares youth are in a mental health crisis. Children, the elderly, and the homeless are often overlooked in regard to professional mental health treatment, particularly in rural areas and disenfranchised families. Compassionate care is a step in the right direction for our communities, and all of us could benefit from kindness.”

According to Carlton Carmichael, Luverne Police Department chaplain, first responders and law enforcement officers face higher rates of depression, burnout, anxiety, and PTSD than the general population and have a higher suicide rate, a statistic due to many reasons.

“It seems that there is a lot of negativity in the world today and our first responders inadvertently soak up a lot of that,” Carmichael said. “The public doesn’t always understand that our law enforcement and other first responders are there to help. I can see the sadness in our officers’ eyes when they have an experience that makes them feel like they aren’t supported like they once were. There are a lot of resources out there for those that deal with PTSD and I think it is a great idea for law enforcement and first responders to fellowship together and talk about whatever it is they need to talk about. Thankfully, our first responders here in Crenshaw County have the ability to do that during a monthly breakfast at First Baptist Luverne.”

Sullins thinks that we owe it to these “heroes that don’t hesitate to protect and serve the public” to ensure that they are not overlooked as valued professionals.

“Law enforcement suicide rates are very high and paramedic suicide rates even surpass that,” Sullins said. “With the utmost pressure and the demand of precise critical thinking during the most emergent of situations, the trauma and lack of humanity can become so deeply woven in one’s spirit that helplessness, isolation, and even substance abuse issues set in. This is not acceptable. Stress management is so vital and as someone who has been in this profession, it’s real, it’s exhausting, it’s chaotic, entrenched in loss and grief, but it’s so worth it for those who make this commitment and society could not survive without them and their dedication.”

Some factors that may promote recovery after trauma include seeking out support from other people, finding a support group or faith-based group after a traumatic event, developing a sense of control and taking action for what you can control along with support and even treatment, having a positive coping strategy or a way of getting through the bad event and learning from it, and being able to act and respond effectively, despite feeling fear.

Many people who experience PTSD have one or other coexisting mental health challenges — like depression, anxiety, alcohol or drug use disorders, or thinking about harming themselves or others. Seeking treatment for any mental health challenge, including PTSD, can help people live healthier lives. For some people, PTSD symptoms may start later on, or they may come and go over time. Treatment can help even if the trauma happened years ago.

If you need to talk or get immediate help in a crisis, help is available. If you or a loved one need assistance, please reach out to any of the following resources:

The Suicide and Crisis Lifeline – call, text, or chat 988

Your faith-based leader, your healthcare professional, or your student health center on campus.

Children & Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder 1-800-233-4050

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance 1-800-826-3632

Disaster Distress Helpline 1-800-985-5990

National Alliance on Mental Illness 1-800-950-NAMI

National Drug Helpline 1-844-289-0879

Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255

For veterans and their families, there is also a hotline through the PTSD Foundation of America specialized in providing referrals, information and resources. To reach the hotline, patients can call (877) 717-PTSD (7873).
Information on the Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) can be obtained by calling 888.997.2586 or emailing,

For further information on veterans and PTSD, please visit

More information on PTSD can be found at