Health Communication: Campaign for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

The next media health campaign by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should be on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder including trauma and general stress disorders. We must recognize the increased risk, address the widespread prevalence, and provide tools and solutions to serve those most affected by PTSD- veterans and survivors of assault/domestic abuse and their families. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, "anyone can develop PTSD at any age. This includes war veterans, children, and people who have been through a physical or sexual assault, abuse, accident, disaster, or many other serious events. According to the National Center for PTSD , about 7 or 8 out of every 100 people will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. Women are more likely to develop PTSD than men, and genes may make some people more likely to develop PTSD than others." A generation of long-running wars, economic recession and widening low socio-economic class, and media driven consumption have made the risk for post traumatic stress disorder more prevalent. If we ourselves are not experiencing symptoms of PTSD, it is very likely that we have family members or friends that are. In that same respect, there are many children within those families dealing with the unresolved and untreated effects of PTSD. The CDC should focus it's attention on awareness and resources for the many affected by PTSD because it also has the potential to affect other areas, such as, substance abuse, violence, and mental health prevention and intervention.

The next video campaign should target the increasing number of individuals either at-risk of developing or currently dealing with PTSD and their families. "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which there was the potential for or actual occurrence of grave physical harm. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, and military combat" (National Institute of Mental Health, 2016). According to the NIMH 3.5% of the U.S. adult population is dealing with PTSD for a 12 month period, 1.3% of those classifieds as severe, and with 6.8% dealing with a lifetime prevalence. The average age of-onset is 23 years old, with the highest age group being 45-59 with 9.2% and yet the lowest age group being 60+ at 2%. Statistics for PTSD in children show that 4% of 13-18 year olds develop a lifetime prevalence with 1.4% of them dealing with severe hypomania. As research has supported, lifetime prevalence of PTSD is higher as adolescents get older (between the ages of 17-18) and females are at higher risk with 6.6%, as opposed to 1.6% of males. By focusing on specific yet effective and targeted populations, such as veterans and survivors of assault/domestic abuse and their families, we will be able to have the greatest impact with the furthest reach. 

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website also offers a wide range of information and resources on PTSD since "about 11-20% of Veterans who served in OIF or OEF (Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom) have PTSD in a given year" and "among Veterans who use VA health care, about 23% of women reported sexual assault when in the military... (though) there are many more male Veterans than there are female Veterans. So, even though military sexual trauma is more common in women Veterans, over half of all Veterans with military sexual trauma are men." There are a few Lifestyle Changes Recommended for PTSD Patients that might be included in our video to aid in prevention and awareness, reduce symptoms, and improve quality of life, such as having more contact with other trauma survivors. This would be the perfect opportunity for featuring survivors, allowing them to share their different stories and the many ways in which they cope. Other lifestyles changes that can be promoted through media and other sources follows the idea of a healthy body, healthy home, and healthy community. This would include promoting exercise, more connected personal relationships, and volunteering and engaging within your community. 

My vision would be to offer a range of perspectives in these campaign videos, such as, veterans, children of veterans, survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault survivors (and their spouses), and child sexual abuse survivors. The majority of these demographics would be inclined to more specifically target school age children, women in their 30's and 40's, and veterans. Giving children the tools to cope with stress and trauma will allow them to apply those tools should they have a parent with PTSD and/or have those tools available in the future. Women are especially susceptible to developing PTSD, there has been "emerging evidence (that)suggests PTSD may be more heritable among women and evidence from animal models and human correlational studies suggest connections between sex-linked biology and PTSD vulnerability, which may extend to the disorder's genetic architecture" (Guffanti, G., Galea, S., Yan, L., Roberts, A.L., Solovieff, N., Aiello, A.E., Smoller, J.W., De Vivo, I., Ranu, H., Uddin, M., Wildman, D.E., Purcell, S., Koenen, K.C., 2013). As a woman who has suffered from PTSD for 10 years, beginning at the age of 23, because of an attempted sexual assault during a home invasion, I feel as though I can speak to the many ways in which these messages can be beneficial to the community. 

The main media communication theory utilized in this campaign would be the Observational Learning Theory, leading by example and portraying behaviors that we would like to see adopted by the public. By using this theory we would be showing the public that they are able to take control of their lives with PTSD, there are resources there to support them, and they are not alone. Our objective would be to educate, spread awareness, and include children and family members in the conversation. The Observational Learning Theory fits this campaign because it aligns with our objective and will also allow for further areas of prevention and intervention. Along with variety of perspectives, an essential part of our videos will be to educate the public and spread awareness of the various resources available, such as, programs, books, and phone apps. This theory also fits our objective of promoting and encouraging a healthy body, connected relationships, and community involvement.

With an increase of risk of developing PTSD in women and veterans, addressing the widespread prevalence and providing tools and solutions to serve those most affected by PTSD, veterans and survivors of assault/domestic abuse and their families, is more essential than ever before. We must give women, veterans, and their families the tools to cope with life-changing trauma  while simultaneously coping with the inevitable stresses of everyday life. By making Post Traumatic Stress Disorder a part of our national health conversation we are including many who are at-risk, we are focusing on prevention, and we are reaching across other areas of promoting a safer and healthier lifestyle. 

Crystal Segovia Gomez