Manchester: Now Is the Time to Take Action and Heal
by David Shapiro
The May 22 bombing in Manchester has left many dead and more wounded. The short and long-term traumatic stress on Ariana Grande Concert participants and their friends and families may also be horrible and extensive. Everything should be done to support their physical and mental healing.
This is the time to do everything possible to reduce the anguish, traumatic stress and anxiety among survivors and their friends and families, both to reduce their suffering and to prevent them from developing post-traumatic stress disorder from the horror of the event.
But what are the symptoms that may lead to post-traumatic stress if left unchecked?
Many people who experience massive traumas or witness others experiencing such traumas may have flashbacks of the horrible event, and even dream of this tragedy. They may also respond to stimuli that remind them of the negative event. For example, a soldier who has been used to gun-fire in war, may come home and throw him or herself to the ground upon hearing the backfire of a car.
Another reaction to a traumatic event is to avoid situations that remind one of that event or even just avoid people and large groups in general.
One may start having negative thoughts or feelings about oneself or others. These feelings may become overwhelming.
In addition, one may become hyper-vigilant, always hyper-alert. Others may engage in risky activities, or start taking drugs and alcohol to hide from the painful memories. Some people find a rise in anger and violent behavior, and some may have trouble sleeping.
If these types of symptoms are troubling and one has friends or family connected with the Manchester bombing or has been watching the events frequently on the news, it may be good to take the five minute PCL-5 test or see a mental health professional. Most people who have these symptoms find that within a few weeks or a month the symptoms drop off. When, however, the symptoms continue for one or more months, then one may have PTSD.
Screening for those at high risk for affliction should be carried out with simple, known tools. There are 5 minute PTSD tests available, such as the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) checklist, PCL-5, a test used around the world to determine risk of PTSD. Then, the most rapid, effective and cost-effective approaches should be used to help those at risk get relief from the massive stress of this tragedy. Just as wounded are given first aid and then medical attention if needed to help the body heal, the general public should be made aware of symptoms of traumatic stress and anxiety so that they may be able to take more complete scanning, like the PCL-5 checklist or see mental health professionals to heal the mind.
By applying prevention techniques to those at risk of developing post traumatic stress disorder, the number of people who succumb to PTSD will be minimized.
The standard treatments for traumatic stress and PTSD are psychotherapy and psycho-pharmacology. But there are many other additional approaches that are used as well. Some of them are highly effective at preventing the symptoms of PTSD from settling into the mind as post-traumatic stress disorder.
The approaches that rapidly reduce PTSD are often the same strategies that reduce growing symptoms and prevent PTSD.
According to the JAMA, August 4 2015, 33% of US Veterans with PTSD come out of PTSD using the top 2 most recommended psychotherapy techniques. Psychopharmocology is often used as well, although it is less effective than psychotherapy. The two may be used together.
In the light of the need for treatments to help the 66% of US Veterans not coming out of PTSD with psychotherapy, many groups are investigating into alternatives, including use of horses and dogs to provide companionship, and diet and exercise routines, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and different types of meditation. The US Government has gone so far as to spend 25 million dollars to test implantation of a cerebral chip that would be implanted in the brain to desensitize an area of the brain that may be associated with PTSD.
Many people find unique comfort from one or another of these approaches.
In one government study comparing types of meditation, one that showed the highest category of rapidity and response was Transcendental Meditation (TM) . There are 10 studies published in professional journals that show that TM is rapid and highly effective. Two studies on Congolese war refugees with high levels of PTSD symptoms and one on female prisoners, showed that within 1-4 months, the majority of people testing with high levels of symptoms became non-symptomatic. 90% of Congolese war refugees with PTSD became non-symptomatic within 30 days of learning and practicing TM. (Journal of Traumatic Stress, April, 2013; February, 2014)
If high levels of post-traumatic stress can be dissolved rapidly with people who already have PTSD, then how much easier would it be to prevent traumatized friends and family as well as well-wishers from getting PTSD?
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Let’s work together to erase the suffering of those affected by this tragedy.
If you or your friends are experiencing these symptoms , take a test (PCL-5) or see a professional to see if you are at risk. If you are, then take action to prevent the symptoms from manifesting as post-traumatic stress disorder.
David Shapiro, M.A, . is founding president of PTSD Relief Now (www.ptsdreliefnow.org), a US 501C3 nonprofit corporation, and author of articles in "Journal of Traumatic Stress" on post-traumatic stress. He has other articles on PTSD in review in other peer reviewed journals and has organized to help thousands of victims of trauma come out of PTSD.