PTSD wounds carry their own special burden: They are invisible. Outsiders experience your PTSD only through your symptoms. If I lose an arm in combat or an industrial accident, the world can see I am disabled; I am missing a part of me. A small portion of American society will then make allowances for me, perhaps hold a door open, or offer to carry something. My employer will not expect me to do a lot of juggling or chin-ups. But PTSD is an invisible wound. What then?
If my wounds are invisible, if they have damaged my brain, my soul, then I experience the added challenge of society’s ignorance, disbelief, mockery. Many people with PTSD fall victim to society’s compassion deficit disorder. We are further damaged by a lack of compassion or the small adjustments to the work place that would allow us to be better employees.
Today’s online version of the Los Angeles Times ran a useful article by Alexandra Zavis, entitled, “Many Veterans with PTSD Struggle to Find Supportive Employment.” It is worth your time to read.
PTSD and Jobs: Not Just a Veterans Issue
This useful LA Times article actually speaks to a wider audience than just the few who care about our veterans.
In my work with people and families who suffer from the effects of PTSD soul wounds, I have seen that we usually undergo similar symptoms regardless of how we became traumatized.
Rape victims, clergy abuse victims, auto accident survivors, and military veterans are plagued with a common set of PTSD symptoms.
PTSD does not care how we got traumatized.
The article speaks to some of the special needs of PTSD survivors and the small things an employer can institute in order to help that employee become more effective. These same techniques – which don’t increase costs – can also benefit the non-veterans who suffer from PTSD soul wounds.
Trickle Down Compassion
Any form of injury or wounds makes acquiring employment difficult. Currently, America pays lip service to taking care of our troops and veterans. Yet, as the nation learns to accept responsibility for its maimed service members, we can also benefit society on a larger scale. The suffering of our veterans may help us to be more compassionate to all members of our society.
Only after six years of warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan has the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration made PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) anything near a priority. While we still do not do enough for PTSD and TBI veterans, we at least have more than doubled the attention and treatment of it as compared to, say, just four years ago (I write this in September 2010).
The trickle down benefit of our wars is that we now understand more about trauma, TBI, PTSD, burns, concussions, and amputations. Many civilians will benefit from the knowledge gained from the battlefield on how to treat amputations and properly install prosthetic limbs.
Likewise, many civilian PTSD sufferers will benefit from our recently increased knowledge of PTSD and TBI.
The knowledge we gain about PTSD and employment scenarios will allow us to better integrate not only military PTSD survivors into our society, but to also better assimilate civilian PTSD survivors into our society. It is a win-win situation. People who were written off only six or seven years ago can be productive members of society. They can gain the sense of accomplishment and value that goes with having a job.
Employment Helps to Heal PTSD
Being part of a team, working effectively in a meaningful job, helps heal PTSD. Employment helps us to have a sense of self-worth and achievement. This wards off despair and makes us less susceptible to the soul wound of PTSD. Creating jobs helps to prevent PTSD.
- Society becomes a better place when we integrate PTSD sufferers into the work place:
- When we employ more people we create more tax payers (paying taxes means we are more than greedy individuals who don’t care about anyone else) and that helps the country.
- We exercise and experience compassion. While this is not valued on Wall Street or the fringe Left or the fringe Right, to be compassionate is part of what makes us human. For religious people, it is something that helps others and brings us closer to God.
- We reduce PTSD induced despair and suicides (which drain the economy).
Compassion Promotes Life
We can make America a more compassionate country by supporting those who suffer from PTSD regardless of how they acquired it. As the LA Times article indicates, it does not require going an extra mile, only a few inches are necessary. If you are someone who believes that life matters or is sacred, then helping PTSD sufferers gain and keep employment is something you want to do. It promotes life.
Semper Pax, Dr. Z