Written by Dr. Shauna Springer
Millions of Americans are suffering from unaddressed trauma due to direct and indirect effects of the global pandemic, physical and sexual violence, warfare, and natural disasters. As a trusted advisor to many of our nation’s warfighters and first responders, I have supported people who have overcome unimaginable traumas for two decades. If we are to finally get traction in addressing our nation’s PTSD crisis, our collective call to action must be grounded in the following ten principles:
1. Collaboration, not competition.
We need all hands on deck, working to address PTSD in a unified way. The care of those who suffer from trauma is NO LONGER a “zero-sum game.” We must actively seek to partner with other organizations to develop a comprehensive continuum of care.
2. TRUST, above all else.
To earn and hold trust with our patients is the higher calling of all healers. Creating and “holding space” comes down to building this trust and honoring it. Trust allows patients to find the courage to share the feelings and emotions that can otherwise lead to self-destructive thoughts.
3. Patient-driven care.
There is no “one right treatment” for all who suffer from trauma. However, there are a number of treatments that can support healing. Trauma takes away people’s power. The way to give it back is to empower patients by giving them a variety of effective treatment options.
4. Elimination of mental health stigma.
Those who suffer from PTSD were once told that it is “all in their head.” Now we know that it is literally in their head, and visible on a brain scan. By changing the way that people view challenges like post-traumatic stress from a mental illness to an injury, we can eliminate mental health stigma.
5. The Fusion of Expertise.
Patients who are flooded with anxiety may have difficulty engaging in talk therapy. Addressing the biological injury caused by trauma exposure can help them to better engage in mental health support. Helping people get calm in their own bodies can be a critical first step to recovery. The fusion of expertise of medical providers, mental health providers and mind-body practitioners will allow patients to achieve and maintain long-lasting positive gains.
6. Access to Care.
Access to care requires pioneering efforts – not just in pushing for innovation, but in placing treatment locations all over the country. If patients can easily travel to places where they can receive healing, they are much more likely to get support.
7. Leading with HOPE.
The feeling that Post-Traumatic Stress is a “life sentence” is killing people across America. People need to know that there is life beyond trauma – not just survival, but a good life – a connected, emotionally fulfilling existence. We must continue to explore and advance a number of treatments that can help people recover after trauma exposure.
8. Trauma-focused treatment.
Those exposed to trauma need healers who practice “radical empathy.” Healers must be intentional about how they interact with patients throughout their recovery journey. Physical spaces where patients are treated must be considered and processes must be evaluated from a trauma-informed lens so that we will “do no harm” to those who seek our help.
9. Continual Learning.
We must be vigilant to the belief that we have “the solution.” In the years to come, both biological treatments and talk therapies will need to continually evolve. We must continue to learn, never resting on what we think we know. As research progresses, we must not consign it to the pages of academic journals, but work to translate research and best practices into practical approaches.
10. Relentless INNOVATION.
Those who suffer from trauma deserve the best care we can provide – care that is practical, effective, and informed by modern neuroscience. Innovation requires courage. Innovators will be met with resistance. Sometimes they will be shamed for bringing new ideas to the field. Nonetheless, we must innovate like our lives depend on it – because they do.
This first appeared in The Havok Journal on February 19, 2021.
Author Bio: Dr. Shauna Springer – known as “Doc Springer” in the military community, is one of the nation’s leading experts on trauma, military transition, and close relationships. As Chief Psychologist of Stella Center, she works to advance a new model for the treatment of trauma that fuses biological and psychological interventions. Her newest book WARRIOR: How to Support Those Who Protect Us brings the worlds of the warrior and those they protect together to shine new light on things that many thought we understood: Trust, Stigma, Firearms, The Imploding Mind, and Connection.