June is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month. PTSD Awareness Month raises public awareness of PTSD, its impact on those who suffer from it, and provides information about effective treatments that are available.
It can be normal for people to have upsetting memories, stress reactions, or trouble sleeping after traumatic events. We often hear of PTSD as a disorder that can occur after someone is in combat, but it can also occur after a natural disaster, a car accident, a sexual assault, or some other event that an individual experiences traumatically, such as the death of a loved one. Most people start to feel better after a few weeks or months. However, for some, upsetting memories, distressing thoughts, and unpleasant emotions can linger for months, years, or decades.
If you or someone you know has symptoms that last more than six months, or interfere with everyday life, you should seek professional help to determine if PTSD is present and to receive care if necessary. Common PTSD symptoms can include:
- Reliving unwanted memories of the trauma, sometimes while asleep;
- Avoiding reminders of the trauma, which can lead to isolation;
- Negative changes in a person’s thoughts, emotions, or beliefs; and
- Heightened feelings of anxiety, such as being easily startled, feeling hypervigilant, or having trouble concentrating.
Seeking Help and Security Clearances
Seeking support is a sign of strength and shows a commitment to self-care and overall mental well-being. If you are thinking about seeking help, it is important to know that treatment and mental health counseling does not disqualify you from maintaining a security clearance.
DHS offers many resources to help employees and their families address life’s concerns and
promote overall health and well-being. If you, a co-worker, or a family member want to learn more about staying healthy and resilient, consider the following resources:
- All DHS employees have access to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Each Component has an EAP that is a confidential resource for personal concerns around work stress, self-improvement, marital problems, financial concerns, depression, elder care, and more. The Employee Assistance Program is a confidential service and does not report to personnel security.
- Your Federal Employee Health Benefits Program includes coverage for mental health treatment. Contact your provider to learn more about your specific coverage.
- Many Components have peer support programs. For more information, contact your Component peer support program lead or your supervisor.
- Visit the Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD site for a variety of useful resources and the Veterans Crisis Line connects veterans with culturally-competent help, many of whom are veterans themselves.
As DHS employees, you uphold a critical mission to safeguard the American people, our homeland, and our values. Working on the front lines of national security is a source of professional pride and satisfaction. It is crucial that you take time to recognize and act quickly when you, your co-workers, or family members may be in crisis.