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Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month

PTSD – Stigma Out, Understanding In

In Canada it is estimated that up to 2.3% of the population is dealing with PTSD at any moment. Research done through the CIPSRT consortium shows that number may be over 23% for public safety personnel (PSP).  Along with struggling with symptoms of PTSD, PSP may also feel the weight of stigma from their co-workers, organizations, or the public. Lack of understanding of PTSD can lead to the idea that those that struggle with PTSD are weak or unfit for duty.  This stigma can stop those who are suffering from seeking help or asking for support. Understanding the reality of symptoms and debunking myths about PTSD can help improve the lives of people who are struggling.

This year for PTSD awareness month CIPSRT wants to get Stigma Out and Understanding In. Together we can show that while PTSD is invisible it is not invincible.

Join us for our 2nd annual Wear Teal Challenge. Last year organizations and individuals from across Canada wore teal to show their support and raise awareness for individuals living with PTSD.

This year we want to make the event even bigger so post your photos on June 27th and tag CIPSRT.




We’ve made posting easier! Just use one of the images below to support us on social media.

Download Toolkit: Wear Teal 2021 Social Media Graphics English

Last year we showed you how far we have come in the 40 years since the PTSD diagnosis was made official, and we told you we had a long way to go.   This year CIPSRT has worked to highlight new advancements in PTSD understanding through the Posttraumatic Stress Injuries in PSP Catalyst Grant webinar series and the development of a PSP PTSD course by the team at PSPNET.  This month CIPSRT is moving forward with tools and events that will help PSP understand PTSD and determine when and where to get help.

PSP Mental Health Website

PSP Mental Health allows searchers to filter mental health options in numerous ways, including cost, language, type of service, privacy, and location.  The flexible search function will allow PSP or their family members to zero in on appropriate resources quickly.  Though the website doesn’t feature service evaluation, the research team believes it is important to make all services geared towards PSP more accessible for those who need mental health help.

Moral Injury in Public Safety Occupations – This session will discuss what happens when PSP face situations that may violate their personal morals, ethics, or values and how they can cope with these situations.

Six Steps for Finding a Clinician – a guide that walks PSP through the steps of finding a mental health professional that is right for them.  Check out the guide here.

PTSD Crash Course – This session will teach you everything you want to know about PTSD symptoms, treatments, and common myths will all be discussed.  Watch Video

To learn more about PTSD symptoms and the research that has been done in the last year on trauma, PTSD, treatment, and learning about stigma please see the content below.

What is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder?

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a group of symptoms people might develop after experiencing a potentially traumatic event.

PTSD Symptoms after Trauma

There are four types of PTSD symptoms a person might experience after being exposed to a potentially traumatic event.

  1. Re-experiencing symptoms
    A hallmark symptom of PTSD involves re-experiencing the traumatic event. This may occur in the form of unwanted and upsetting memories of the event or repeated and distressing nightmares. Some people have a more intense re-experience of events called “flashbacks,” where they might feel like they are actually experiencing the trauma again.
  2. Avoidance symptoms
    Avoidance symptoms include a strong urge to stay away from reminders of a potentially traumatic event. These reminders might include people, places, objects, or activities which are related to the trauma in some way. Some people also go out of their way to avoid thinking or talking about the event.
  3. Changes in thoughts and mood
    Potentially traumatic events can change how people think about themselves, other people, and their world. The changes can include feeling hopeless or detached from loved ones or having difficulty experiencing positive emotions – or even sometimes having any emotions at all. Such changes might indicate PTSD, especially for people who were formerly a ‘positive’ or ‘realistic’ person but have become increasingly ‘negative’ after a potentially traumatic event.
  4. Changes in physical and emotional reactions
    Potentially traumatic events can also cause significant distress and physical symptoms. People can become more watchful, on guard, easily startled, or frightened. Difficulties sleeping or trouble concentrating can be caused by diverse stress, up to and including traumatic stress. In addition, potentially traumatic events can cause increased feelings of anger, irritability, shame, or guilt.

Many people can experience some of the above symptoms after a potentially traumatic event; nevertheless, for most people the symptoms fade within a couple weeks.

If someone experiences several of the above symptoms from each of the four groups for longer than a month, and the symptoms are extremely distressing or interfere with work, relationships, or other important areas of life, they may be experiencing PTSD and may benefit from appropriate mental health care.

If you are worried about your mental health or the mental health of a loved one, you can use our anonymous self-assessment tool.

What is a potentially traumatic event?

When a mental health professional is evaluating whether someone has PTSD, they often consider the experience or situation thought to have triggered the symptoms. A traumatic event is different than normal daily stress or pressure. Potential traumas usually involve experiencing or witnessing severe injury, feeling that your life or somebody else’s life is in danger, or witnessing an intentional or accidental death. Events such as natural disasters can also be traumatic.

The kinds of potentially traumatic events that can lead to PTSD are often experienced in person-but not always. For example, some work involves repeated exposure to stories of injury or death, such as being a call-centre operator for 911 or a crime scene photo developer for a police unit.

Not everybody who experiences a traumatic event develops PTSD. Indeed, in the North American general population most people (i.e., 50-90%) will experience one or more potentially traumatic events during their lifetime; however, relatively few (i.e., 5-10%) will develop PTSD. Even people who are in careers where exposure to potentially traumatic events may be more common, like public safety personnel (PSP), are not necessarily going to develop PTSD. There are responses to potentially traumatic events that can be considered fairly normal. For example, you might feel unsettled or uncomfortable at first, but most people recover and return to normal within a few days; however, some people do go on to have longer-lasting challenges after experiencing a potentially traumatic event.

Research that explores exposure to trauma, PTSD and treatment in PSP

Want to know more about how PSP are exposed to trauma, the prevalence of PTSD, or what kind of treatment PSP seek?
Below are research summaries of some of the studies conducted through the CIPSRT-CIHR consortium that aims to answer these questions.

Factors affecting the development of posttraumatic stress and growth in police officers

Posttraumatic effects in policing

Virtual therapy for posttraumatic stress injury: A review

Review of interventions designed to lessen the impact of PTSI

Programs that support PSP mental health

CIPSRT hosts monthly virtual town halls that highlight, issues, treatments, and programs in PSP mental health. Below are a few town halls from this year that highlight some programs from across the country that are making a difference to PSP mental health.

Peer Support Programs – An Example from Ottawa

The Role of Reintegration Programs an Example from the Edmonton Police Service

Year One of Internet-delivered Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Public Safety Personnel (PSPNET): Initial Results of the Internet Cognitive Behavior Therapy Program for Public Safety Personnel (PSPNET): Delivered, Evaluated, Improved, and Ready for Use

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