On June 27, we talk about PTSD, a complex disorder caused by experiencing or witnessing trauma. The trauma necessary to cause PTSD can originate from many events — potentially an accident, combat, a natural disaster, or an assault — but there are other ways PTSD symptoms can arise. A trained professional must diagnose PTSD, based on symptoms like hypervigilance, mood swings, recurring and involuntary flashbacks to the trauma, and avoidance. The National Center for PTSD declared all of June to be PTSD Awareness month — you can help their campaign by educating yourself and others about the illness, and sharing help with those who might need it.
History of National PTSD Awareness Day
PTSD in some form or another has long been documented in humans. The earliest known literature about the disorder is a poem from 50 BC. Hippocrates narrated a traumatic battle experience about a soldier who was haunted by PTSD-like combat flashbacks. PTSD has consistently been mentioned since then, notably during the Hundred Year’s War between England and France, and even in the literature of Shakespeare — including Romeo and Juliet.
A new understanding of PTSD came with the Civil War in the 1800s, as the disorder became widespread in the traumatized country. PTSD was known under a variety of names, including “railway spine.” It was in 1915 that some understanding of PTSD was formally introduced into medical literature, under the name “shell shock.”
World War 1 threw the disease into the spotlight, and rudimentary treatments, like electric shock therapy, were attempted. It wasn’t until the 1950s that more modern treatments, like group therapy, were introduced.
The Vietnam War issued in, yet again, a new understanding of the disorder. This coincided with research done by psychologists on both Holocaust victims and rape victims, which helped prove that many kinds of trauma can lead to PTSD.
Today, it’s considered largely treatable, so we’ve made a lot of progress. The Senate recognized June 27 as National PTSD Awareness Day at the urging of Senator Kent Conrad. Conrad wanted to honor a North Dakota National Guard member who had committed suicide after two tours of duty in Iraq. In 2014, the entire month of June was designated National PTSD Awareness Month by the Senate.
National PTSD Awareness Day timeline
Hippocrates first documented the trauma of battle and flashbacks of combat very reminiscent of modern PTSD.
Many soldiers in World War 1 were thought to be “shell-shocked,” a term introduced to medical literature in 1915 to describe symptoms of PTSD.
Psychologist Ann Wolbert Burgess and sociologist Lynda Lytle Holmstrom described “Rape Trauma Symdrome” as a variant of PTSD experienced by women who had experienced sexual assault.
Although PTSD had been acknowledged medically for decades, it wasn’t until 1980 that it was included in the DSM.
After the Senate’s formal acknowledgement, June 27, 2010 became the first National PTSD Awareness Day.
National PTSD Awareness Day FAQs
Where is National PTSD Awareness Day Celebrated?
The United States.
What color is PTSD awareness?
PTSD Awareness is represented by the color teal.
Is PTSD preventable?
PTSD is an increasingly recognized and potentially preventable condition, although research is abstract.
How to Observe National PTSD Awareness Day
Educate yourself on the symptoms of PTSD
Learn what the symptoms and causes of PTSD can look like, and understand resources and treatments that can be offered to someone struggling. After you’re familiar with the illness, try going to the National Center for PTSD’s website and take the pledge to raise PTSD awareness.
An overwhelming percentage of those with PTSD are affiliated with the military. Combat can be a traumatic experience and cause PTSD, so there are many organizations set up to provide aid to veterans with PTSD. Some include Military with PTSD, Wounded Warrior Project, and Military OneSource.
Spread the word
According to the National Center for PTSD, one of the main purposes of PTSD Awareness Month is to spread the word on the disease to others. They recommend a variety of outreach ideas, from providing a sample blog post to suggesting asking a governor or local official to declare June as PTSD Awareness Month.
5 Important Facts About PTSD
PTSD is widespread
While 3.5% of adult Americans struggling with PTSD may seem like a small percentage, that’s actually 8 million people.
It affects women more than men
10% of women and only 4% of men are likely to develop PTSD, which makes it over twice as likely for women to develop the illness.
PTSD is widespread in veterans
Of those who served in the Vietnam War, an estimated 30% have had PTSD in their lifetimes. 12% of Gulf War Veterans have PTSD, and between 11-20% of veterans of the Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have PTSD.
Children can get PTSD
It appears that children can develop PTSD symptoms, albeit differently to adults. Research is very new and there is much more to be known about the subject.
PTSD in literature
Some of our earliest PTSD knowledge comes from literature, including Shakespeare and Dickens. They wrote about traumatic experiences, and the symptoms they described aligned with what we now call PTSD.
Why National PTSD Awareness Day is Important
It’s a widespread illness
8 million Americans is no small amount. Especially because military service in this country can often lead to development of PTSD symptoms, it’s important to understand what our fellow citizens go through. With knowledge of the disorder, we can make the lives of these individuals less stressful, and better support them in their recovery.
It helps those with PTSD find and receive treatment
Awareness not only helps raise funds for organizations that support those with PTSD, it also can share resources. A social media post acknowledging the disease and listing a few supporting organizations, paths for treatment, and ways to manage it daily may make all the difference to someone silently struggling with PTSD.
It helps people heal
Though sharing resources can be helpful, simply letting those with PTSD know you are there is impactful. A large part of the treatment of PTSD involves social support and opening up to others.
National PTSD Awareness Day dates