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Bristol Area Lions Learn the Hard Truth about P.T.S.D. 09/20/2012

Posted by DS in meetings, speakers.
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King Lion John Janell (left) thanks Dr. Bob Smith for his very informative talk on P.T.S.D. (Photo by Herb Watson, E.H

On Mon. Sept. 17, the Bristol Area Lion Club was given a very informative talk by Dr. Bob Smith, currently an instructor at Coastal Senior College, and specialist in P.T.S.D (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.)

After serving in the Army, Smith obtained his undergraduate degree in Engineering and MBA from the University of Bridgeport. He spent 25 years at Bristol Myers Products and took early retirement as Director and V.P. of Logistics.

While at Bristol Myers he obtained his MA degree in Human Development Education from Fairleigh Dickenson University and a PhD in Development Psychology from Union Graduate School. He has taught at the University of Bridgeport, Fairleigh Dickinson University, and the University of California in San Diego.

Until recently Dr. Smith volunteered as Clinical Director of the mid-coast Maine CISM (Critical Incident Stress Management) team. Smith worked with police, fire, EMT’s, hospital personnel and the Coast Guard after serious trauma incidents. He is also a member of the Togus Veterans Writing Group and was a staff therapist at Volunteers in Medicine a free clinic in Hilton Head Island, S.C.
Although P.T.S.D. is thought to be most prevalent in the military, this is not always the case. Anyone who has experienced a traumatic, life changing event is susceptible. Because of their occupation, soldiers, policemen, coast guardsmen, EMTs, and paramedics have higher incidences of stress in their lives, but anyone, such as a rape victim for instance, who has experienced violence or tragedy can be affected by P.T.S.D.

P.T.S.D. is a “new name for an old story.” In ancient Greece it was called, ‘nostalgia.’ In the Victorian era it was called either ‘hysteria’ or ‘exhaustion.’ By the time of the Civil War it was known as ‘soldier’s heart,’ and in the First and Second World Wars it was called, ‘shell shock’ or ‘combat fatigue.’

The term post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was first coined in the mid-1970s during the Vietnam War. Many of those affected did not assimilate back into society. The number of homeless Vietnam-era veterans, male and female, is greater than the number of soldiers who died during the war. On any given night, more than 300,000 veterans are living on the streets or in shelters in the U.S. There are 800 – 1000 homeless veterans in Maine.

According to Smith, the number one cause of P.T.S.D. in soldiers he has treated was not their experience in combat but rather the things they did that they didn’t feel they were capable of doing. Because of their army training they had been led to believe that if they followed commands they would be good soldiers. However, in their cases, because of what they had done in the name of combat, they felt that they were terrible human beings.

The other two most prevalent causes of P.T.S.D. affect 1) those who feel that they are invulnerable to fear but who discover they are otherwise and feel themselves to be cowards, and 2) those who believe the organization they work for is honorable but discover that it is otherwise and are traumatized.

P.T.S.D. stress reactions include: startle reaction, recurrent nightmares, outbursts of rage & violence, suspicion, fatigue, listlessness & numbing, fear of situations.

Anyone experiencing these one or more of these symptoms should seek medical help.

Asked if he had seen any improvement in the handling of people with P.T.S.D., Smith said that he thought it was getting better but that there was too much over medication, mainly because insurance companies won’t cover long term care and this is the only alternative form of treatment.

Asked if there was a different rate of P.T.S.D. between troops and the National Guard, the answer was a definite, ‘Yes.’ National Guard soldiers do not have the same standard of military training and return from warfare straight into civilian life. They don’t have the same access to military medical care as regular soldiers. Consequently there is a much higher incidence of P.T.S.D. in the National Guard.

Dr. Smith’s current course at the Coastal Senior College, “Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? Chats on death and dying,” will run from 1:00pm – 3:00pm at the Lincoln Home, September 19th to October 24th.

After remembrances, a moment of silent prayer was held for three friends that were lost in the last two months. Willing worker Una Brackett, the benefactor of one of our scholarship funds Ralph Hunt and long-time member Hugh Marshall.

Next month there will be a two-part program on Independence at Home or Aging in Place. Our speaker on Mon.Oct.1 will be Bob Hardina, the founder of Mid-Coast Energy Systems, who will cover Making Your Home Safe. On Mon. Oct. 15 Andrea Handel of Eldercare Network will explain In-Home Care Options.

To make dinner reservations for the next meeting please call Herb Watson at 677-6191. To learn more about the Bristol Area Lions Club, serving Bristol and South Bristol, contact John Janell at 563-7402

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