More aid needs to be devoted to relieving PTSD’s impact on civilians.
By Brandon Lilly
Getting proper care and services for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is hard if you are a military veteran. Getting proper care is even more difficult if you are one of the 8 million civilian sufferers.
A recent Brown University study found that in comparison to the services available to military veterans provided by the Veterans Health Administration and the Department of Defense, treatment resources made available to non-military civilians who have PTSD are much less cohesive and helpful.
“For the other people affected by PTSD — victims of sexual assault, child abuse, and natural disasters — there really isn’t an organized body of research that generates guidance for how they and their caregivers should deal with their PTSD,” said Judith Bentkover, professor of the practice in health services, policy and practice at the Brown School of Public Health upon the release of the study.
“We know that gender, race, and culture affect how people deal with anxiety,” she continued. “The research to date doesn’t provide a robust evidence base for treating PTSD in specific vulnerable subpopulations, by either socio-demographic cohort or by cause of PTSD.“
The Brown study discovered flaws in how research is shared. It’s difficult organizing, synthesizing, retrieving, and translating the information so all treatment providers, patients, and caregivers can benefit from the data. Bentkover’s interest in treatments for PTSD for veterans was piqued when she began co-teaching a class on mental health policy with former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy. She learned that while getting good help was far from easy for the severe but treatable condition, understanding what good care consists of and locating it was even more difficult for some nonveterans. “The VA has the best PTSD treatment model,” Bentkover said. “Kids have PTSD. Women have PTSD. It’s not just a disease of veterans, although they are a significant and poignant cohort of people who have it. Sexual assault victims, abused children, survivors of natural disasters do not necessarily have a VA to go to for help. What do they do?”
To help with this issue, Bentkover and her team provided several recommendations for how to improve care, including pursuing research related to specific causes of PTSD in nonveterans – such as violent crime and sexual abuse – as well as establishing a patient-centric institute to enlist and maintain resources.
“We’d like to see information on outcomes for particular patients that reflect implementation in the real world,” Bentkover said. “We’d like to see a lot of program evaluation with empirical data about treatment efficacy and effectiveness, and we’d like to see information on cost-effectiveness.”