What do an Iraq veteran and a Hasidic Jew have in common? Not much you’d think, at first. But two news stories released over the last few weeks show that they have the possibility to both suffer from PTSD.
First, what is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Clinically, PTSD is an anxiety disorder that is caused by exposure to one or more traumatic events that threatened or caused serious physical harm. Commonly, people associate PTSD with veterans, and rightly so. Many Vietnam veterans suffered from PTSD without getting adequate access to mental health therapies. However, research in the mid 1980s showed that rape and sexual abuse survivors also held the possibility of developing this disorder. I’ve read some estimates as high as 80% of all rape survivors have developed PTSD. PTSD can also be triggered by diagnosis of a life threatening illness, such as cancer or other diseases. Some individuals who survived childhood cancer experience PTSD as they grow into their teen and adult years, due to the repeatedly traumatic experiences of surgery, testing, and radiation.
So if we assembled a group of people to “look” like PTSD, it would be composed of veterans, rape and torture survivors, and possibly survivors of childhood illnesses. Which explains why I’m talking about an Iraq war veteran. But what’s up with the Hasidic Jew?
NPR featured a story last week concerning serious sexual abuse of hasidic children in NYC, and some allegations of cover ups by the synagogues. The story, which can be found here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=99913807
mirrors what many of the children abused at the hands of the Catholic Church suffered – a blame shifting, a denigration of whether the abuse was “that bad” or “not serious.” Essentially, adults telling kids that their fear and guilt, their response to a traumatic, overwhelming experience was overblown. That in turn, causes the child to submerge their feelings even deeper, causing more and more serious levels of emotional disturbances.
I care about these issues, because right now, right here, in this country, nothing is more important than making sure everyone has the capacity to be productive, useful members of society. But letting PTSD go untreated leads to parts of our community leading splintered or fractured lives, holding back from expressing their skills and talents into a world that needs creative solutions to energy, poverty, growth, homelessness, food security, violence and many other problems. Unleashing the power of so many individuals to possess their own sense of ease, of confidence and the ability to live, maybe not without fear, but with less fear, more ease, could create a very different society in the next few decades. Yoga can help people with PTSD, when combined with other treatment modalities.
So the soldier and the hasidic jew, they both may suffer from PTSD, but not know how they can get treatment that can make them feel strong, capable and ready to handle taking those traumatic memories that are not properly given a time and place and continue to bump into their daily lives in the form of flashbacks or dissociation.
And why is this so necessary now? Well, recently more studies have shown that our returning vets are succombing to suicide at a rate double and triple that of the rest of the population. Information available here:
To be blunt, they are dying because we can’t get treatment to them, in a way that will work for them. Why not try everything available? Why not try new ways of doing talk therapy, new drugs, new movement based therapy? What do we have to lose? If it saves half of those who might have committed suicide then it is a raging success.
Keeping secrets, of being abused, of being threatened and terrified and not willing to try therapy because of not being considered capable or strong, these secrets cost lives.