Blog by Rebecca Hicks RN, BScN
I hope everyone has had a great summer travelling locally, spending time with family, and enjoying the slower pace of life! Although life has changed for most people around the globe, I am feeling so blessed and thankful for living in bountiful Canada. Having said that, I know there are still lots of people both in Canada and around the globe that have been struggling physically, mentally, and spiritually, and this pandemic can bring out the worst. As I’ve been preparing to write this blog I have been praying for my readers, that you will experience God’s peace and comfort wherever you are at during this time.
My good friend and founder of Agora Network Ministry, Allan Gallant, will be doing some talks about Suicide Prevention during the month of September on his radio show (Friday at 6pm EST on station 90.7 or online at: https://www.praisefmcb.com/listen-now). He has asked me to write about PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and how it can affect our thoughts about suicide. So if this topic interests you, I encourage you to read on!
What is PTSD?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a term used to describe a series of symptoms that someone may experience following a traumatic event. A traumatic event includes anything that produces intense fear such as war, violent crimes, natural disasters, car accidents, traumatic health events (such as surgery or treatments), and even witnessing a traumatic event can cause PTSD symptoms. Symptoms of PTSD can include panic attacks, nightmares, repetitive thoughts related to the event, intense flashbacks emotional numbness, detachment, loss of interest, sleeplessness, and increased anxiety.
A common example of PTSD is what happened to many soldiers following the First World War. Many war veterans were diagnosed with “shell shock” (later termed PTSD) as they experienced extreme anxiety when hearing loud noises that reminded them of the sounds they heard while fighting in the war. These soldiers were reported to have many of the symptoms listed above, changing their personality and behaviours from who they used to be before serving in the war. Researchers have found that there are psychological, neurochemical and endocrinological alterations that can occur following a traumatic event.
When PTSD Turns to Hopelessness
Like many mental health disorders, people who suffer from PTSD may experience suicidal thoughts. PTSD can be debilitating, affecting the person’s ability to think and function normally. Fears can become all-consuming and crippling. PTSD can cause the person to feel hopeless and unsure of the future. They may start to feel that life is too difficult, that it would be better if they didn’t wake up, that they will never be able to overcome or “get over” the event. It is common for people who are experiencing PTSD to self-harm and/or over-indulge in substances (alcohol and drugs) to cope with the intense feelings that they are experiencing. Unfortunately suicidal thoughts can start to develop, which is a very dangerous and serious symptom.
Turning Hopelessness into Hope
Fortunately, there are many treatment options available to treat PTSD today. Like other anxiety disorders, PTSD can be effectively treated with therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, and support groups. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is also an effective form of therapy for treating PTSD, which involves processing the traumatic event with a qualified therapist and learning how to “rewire” the reaction to the memory. Medication can also be very effective in overcoming the symptoms of PTSD, as a short-term or long-term solution. Medications for PTSD usually include antidepressants. Family therapy is also an important tool that can be used in supporting the person and family members affected by PTSD. Family therapy or counseling can effectively educate family members on how to best support their loved one suffering from PTSD and can also give guidelines to family members on how to create healthy boundaries and limits.
Where is God in PTSD?
PTSD is not new. Humans-for as long as we’ve been created- have been experiencing various forms of traumatic events throughout our lifetime. Fear is an innate, natural, cerebral reaction that we have all been born with and know all too well. Although fear can easily control our lives, we also have been given the ability to overcome fear. Let me repeat that. You can overcome fear. God can give you peace that is supernatural, unexplainable, and life-changing (I’ve experienced it first-hand). The road to peace from trauma may involve a combination of the tools I’ve listed above as treatment methods, it may involve prayer and possibly forgiveness, and it will take time. I encourage anyone experiencing fear from trauma to give your thoughts, worries, and feelings to God. Allow Him to heal you. Invite Him in, to give you guidance on where to turn, what resources you might need, and who to share your story with. With God there is hope.
What the Bible Says
Lucky for us, the Bible provides so many helpful words about fear. Here is a few that I have found comforting, and I hope will speak to you:
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7.
“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
“Look up into the heavens, Who created all the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing. O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles? O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights? Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:26-31
“God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.” Psalm 46:1-2
“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7