Edmonds Military Wire Special Report: In light of Mt. Rainier shooting, coping with PTSD

Updated with link to television interview

By Michael Schindler

With recent news reporting that the “person of interest” in the shooting and killing of Mt. Rainier Park Ranger Margaret Anderson is a well-skilled survivalist and an Iraq war veteran, the topic of PTSD has once again surfaced. Today we’ll tackle what PTSD is, a few coping steps, and several key resources that will aid you or someone you love in navigating PTSD.

Let me first preface this article by stating that I am by no means an expert in PTSD. This is a complex issue that requires years of study; one of the leading experts in Washington state is Tom Schumacher, with the Department of Veterans Affairs. He and his team of 30-plus counselors are up-to-date on what is truly working — and in most states, there is a leading expert who can help field your questions, so be sure to check with your local Department of Veterans Affairs.

So what exactly is PTSD? In a nutshell, PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can occur after a traumatic event — often one that is often life-threatening. PTSD is considered a psychiatric/psychological condition that often requires long term treatment of the symptoms.

When it comes to the symptoms, they can manifest almost immediately after the event or sometimes it can take years before they manifest. Worth noting is that not all people who experience a traumatic event experience PTSD. Studies show that maybe one out of three will actually show symptoms.

Frequent symptoms are feeling numb (non-emotional), anger issues, increased irritability and trouble concentrating. These often lead to increased drinking and drug use, feelings of hopelessness, and relationship challenges.

Here are five steps you can take to support a PTSD Treatment, this according to the Federal VA:
1. Lean on your fellow veteran — re-establish your sense of community; find a support group with fellow veterans who are working through the same issues    that have a game plan
2. Continue your education — (getting back on mission): working toward a goal has been found a successful coping mechanism
3. Return to work or volunteering — keeping focused on specific tasks that has meaning or purpose
4. Exercise to relax body and mind — jogging, swimming, weight-lifting, all designed to reduce physical tension
5. Talk with Social Support network — your personal support network is key to avoiding isolation; increase contact with members of your social network.

As you move through today’s often confusing marketplace, know your key resources:
1. Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-253-TALK (8255)
2. National Center for PTSD
3. RealWarriors.net (great site)
4. Pugetsound.va.gov
5. DVA.Wa.gov
Items 4 and 5 are specific to Washington state and the first three are applicable no matter where you reside. RealWarriors.net is a true gem, so be sure to check it out.

Editor’s note: Here’s a link to Schindler’s television interview on this topic, which appeared on KCPQ Monday.

Michael Schindler, Navy veteran, and president of Edmonds-based Operation Military Family, is a guest writer for several national publications, author of the book “Operation Military Family” and “The Military Wire” blog. He is also a popular keynote and workshop speaker who reaches thousands of service members and their families every year through workshops and seminars that include  “How to Battle-Ready Your Relationship” or “What Your Mother-in-Law Didn’t Tell You.”  He received the 2010 Outstanding Patriotic Service Award from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.

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