Saturday, November 28, 2009

PTSD Awareness Event Coming to Second Life December 19

24-hour International Event to Showcase Benefits of Virtual Environments for PTSD Survivors

Fearless Nation, the online community for people suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), will host a massive online event in Second Life (SL), the online virtual environment, to bring awareness to the needs of PTSD survivors and their families. The "Be Fearless" event will run for 24 hours beginning at midnight PST (UTC -8) on December 19, 2009 and run through midnight PST on December 20.

The event will include an open house of the Fearless Nation Second Life community, information and resources about PTSD, and an art show entitled "From the Abyss," allowing visitors to see the world through the eyes of a PTSD survivor. It will also include 24 hours of music and dancing spearheaded by DJ Britsurfer Bauer. Gifts, prizes and SL land giveaways donated by SL residents will also be offered to attendees.

"The 'Be Fearless' event is an opportunity to raise awareness about PTSD and to dispel the stigmas associated with this disorder," says Colleen Crary, founder of Fearless Nation. "We live in a world where it is estimated that 14 percent of the population may have some form of PTSD, yet it remains a highly misunderstood condition."

PTSD can result when one has experienced actual or threatened death or serious injury; threat to one's physical integrity; witnessing an event that involves death, injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of another person; learning about unexpected or violent death, serious harm, or threat of death or injury experienced by a family member or other close associate. Characteristic symptoms include persistent re-experiencing of the traumatic event; persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma; numbing of general responsiveness; and persistent symptoms of increased anxiety.

Fearless Nation is an international multicultural community of PTSD and trauma survivors, offering support, education and understanding of PTSD. The group welcomes PTSD sufferers, their families, friends, and clinicians, war veterans, law enforcement personnel, emergency response workers, torture and crime victims, man-made and natural disaster survivors, and survivors of all traumas.

Fearless Nation uses immersion in the Second Life Virtual Reality Environment (VRE) to give traumatized individuals experiences in social interaction and avatar activities that promote trust, skill mastery, and health through:
  • Creation of a flexible "physical" presence (the avatar)
  • Control over environment (can build, create own space, choose interactions)
  • Education about PTSD (knowledge is power)
  • Trying activities that diminish fear and anxiety such as:
    • Talking openly in a safe space about traumatic experiences
    • Progressive muscle relaxation (avatar yoga, movement, dance)
    • Performance (music, singing, speaking, poetry, storytelling, dance, showing art, speech-making, etc.)
    • Creative expression (music, art, poetry, clothing, etc.)
  • Social interaction with others (rebuilding social skills)
  • Supporting other PTSDers (getting outside one's own trauma)
  • Receiving support from other PTSDers (accepting help and rebuilding social skills)
  • Advocating for PTSD awareness and treatment (giving back)
  • Trying new ways to approach problems (re-conceive the perception of traumatic experiences)
"I see the virtual environment of Second Life to be of great value to PTSD sufferers and their families," says Crary. "Research has shown that virtual reality environments can help people with PTSD to re-train their brains toward healing and recovery through shared experiences. SL provides the perfect environment for this approach, and despite the heavy hardware required, is low-cost and accessible to those seeking help. It provides privacy and anonymity for those seeking community."

If you are not already a "resident" of SL, you can get a free account and avatar at Once you have an account, you may attend or participate in the "Be Fearless" event by visiting the SL events page for December 19 or going the Second Life url, You can also find the Fearless Nation community by searching in SL for "PTSD" or by visiting the Fearless Nation website at

Friday, November 27, 2009

PTSD and the stigma of the workplace

"There is a stigma attached to the invisible wounds, and it's largely borne out of ignorance," said David Autry, a spokesman for Disabled American Veterans. "There's a fear that somebody will go off the deep end."

This is just one of the interesting elements in the AP's recent article about vets with "invisible wounds" returning to the workforce. Give it a read to learn about the challenges many people with PTSD face when seeking jobs, as well as once they are employed, and how the Army's Wounded Warrior Program and forward-thinking companies like Northrop Grumman are helping some vets with PTSD.

Study: Marijuana may help ease PTSD symptoms

According to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, "marijuana may help patients overcome life stresses that worsen reawakened trauma and other symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder."

The study didn't use actual marijuana, but an artificial, synthetic drug, which was given to rats to see how quickly they could adjust to stress after experiencing an initial trauma.

Hardly conclusive, but worth noting.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Study claims PTSD is being over-diagnosed

The Canadian Press reports: "A new study suggests post-traumatic stress disorder is being over-diagnosed in Canada and the western world — a potentially costly situation that could lead to skyrocketing disability claims."

Interesting that, even for a country with socialized medicine, the lead here takes an insurance point of view.

But like many discussions of PTSD, this ignores many facets of the problem. 1) Not only soldiers experience PTSD. 2) PTSD was severely under-diagnosed for decades.


PTSD: The growing plague

The more tours soldiers do, the greater their chances of suffering PTSD:

...troops on their second or third trip to the combat zone, have more stress related mental problems. While 14 percent of troops on their first combat tour have stress problems, that goes to 18 percent for those on their second tour, and 31 percent for those on their third.

Read more.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Journaling: "Your notebook doesn't pass judgement"

Would keeping a journal of your experiences help you to learn to deal with your PTSD? That's the goal of the Veterans Writers Group started by Fred Tomasello at the Buffalo VA Hospital.

Fred told WGRZ: "The notebook is there, you can write what you want it doesn't pass any judgement on you, you can say what you want and it's always there whenever you want to go back and look at it again."

In this case, the journal doesn't work by itself. The Writers Group is also a support group where vets can talk about what they wrote and what they experienced.

Read more about it here.

Easing nighmares could help ease PTSD symptoms

Are you plagued by nightmares? Do they haunt your daytime hours as well as your evenings?

A technique called imagery rehearsal therapy (IRT) has been shown to help some people who suffer from PTSD. According to a recent article in USA Today, IRT is "a form of cognitive behavioral therapy, which focuses on changing harmful thought patterns."

Basically, IRT teaches you to examine your recurring nightmares, then "rewrite the scripts" so that you are in more control of your dreams.

I actually did something very similar just this past week, without knowing it, to deal with the recent death of my father. Every night before I go to sleep, I try to set the intention for my dreams. My nightmares have dramatically receded, and I feel like my dreams are instructing me, rather than terrifying me.

Give the article a read and talk about this with your therapist. It could be worth a try.

Should PTSD be a badge of honor?

Jack Estes, co-founder of the Fallen Warriors Foundation, tells a heartbreaking story of a Viet Nam vet who waited more than 24 years for the military to treat him as if he has PTSD.

Estes ends his article with a personal note: "Like Bobby, I too have PTSD. Quietly, though, afraid of the stigma. I've been to therapy for years and take medication to keep me steady. I'm better most days. And like many veterans, I hope someday people will look at PTSD as a badge of honor."

So how do you feel about this? Should PTSD be a badge of honor? It definitely shouldn't be considered shameful. Maybe treating it honorably will get more soldiers the treatment they need.