I live with multiple mental health conditions to include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Whenever I share this with people they assume my veteran identity plays a huge role in that specific diagnosis. This assumption is harmful and I'll be using this space to share why.
I am a veteran and am often not assumed to be one. This assumption grouped with my diagnosis while being Black, Sāmoan and Queer leads me to often not receiving the care I need. Even when people put two and two together they assume my diagnosis is heavily attached to "war" or "combat". These harmful assumptions "have real-world consequences."
Fewer than 20 percent of veterans suffer from PTSD, but most Americans think the disorder is far more common. The symptoms associated with PTSD in mainstream media often lead people to see veterans as unemployable and a liability. On top of that look at the imagery associated (below). No one like me seems to be represented.
The image above was a window display shared by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America erected this window display in New York City as part of a 2015 PTSD awareness campaign.
In National Alliance on Mental Illnesses (NAMI)'s description of PTSD they describe traumatic events as an accident, assault, military combat or natural disaster. The use of "military combat" contributes to the previously stated. The description has no mention of sexual assault or harassment, homophobia, transphobia, racism, discrimination, anti-Blackness, psychological or emotional abuse or anything not physically dangerous. While NAMI is a huge voice in mental health, this is not surprising especially with even larger voices , the American Psychological Association (APA), not acknowledging these effects until October of 2020.
These descriptions made by large voices in mental health cause people to believe that diagnosis is not needed for anyone who has not experienced physical trauma and do not perfectly align with the imagery they create with their language.
Several studies have shown that discrimination, racism , homophobia, transphobia, anti-Blackness and the harmful behavior associated, cause serious brain damage and are detrimental to mental health.
The next time someone says PTSD and your brain automatically pulls up a cis White man who is also a combat veteran , challenge it to think of anyone else. Challenge it to think of a trans person who has been disowned by their family for transitioning or a Black person who just had to watch another Black person be murdered. Think about who is defining trauma and why they are defining it this way.
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