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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a difficult disorder and it’s especially a problem with men and woman who have served time in combat with the military. However, there are millions of non-veterans who experience PTSD. In a new study done by the Harvard Review of Psychiatry, it was discovered that compared to what the Veterans Health Administration and the Defense Department have made available for veterans, non-veterans do not have quite as many options available for treatment or help.
Judith Bentkover, professor of the practice at Brown University School of Public Health stated, “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.”
She further stated, “We know that gender, race, and culture affect how people deal with anxiety. The research that there is to date doesn’t provide a robust evidence base for treating PTSD in specific vulnerable sub-populations, by either sociodemographic cohort or by cause of PTSD. And where there are some good studies, we need better ways of organizing, synthesizing, retrieving, and translating the information we do have so that all treatment providers, patients and caregivers can benefit from this knowledge.”
Bentkover became interested in post-traumatic stress disorder treatment for veterans when she started to co-teach a class on mental health policy with former United States Rep. Patrick Kennedy. She learned that many veterans continue to struggle to find help and treatment for PTSD. Having an understanding of what good treatment is and locating it are more challenging for some non-veterans.
Bentkover went on to state, “The best PTSD treatment model we have can be found within the VA. Kids have PTSD. Women have PTSD. It’s not just a disease of veterans, although they are a very important 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. What do they do?”
For non-veterans who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Bentkover said, it may be hard to get them connected with the proper care and treatment. Some individuals who have PTSD who remain without treatment could develop other medical issues and tend to account for more healthcare expenses than those who receive treatment.
To understand and learn more about what resources are available to civilians may have, Bentkover lead a team of seven researchers who reviewed academic and economic literature on non-veteran PTSD treatment. The team found that while some research and resources could be located, there is not very much available.
She stated, “Caregiver and patient-centered internet searches for PTSD treatment programs and support resources located sites that were often rich in information and not necessarily organized to facilitate consumer decision-making.”
The authors elaborated further, “Generally speaking, consumer websites could perform several key functions more effectively, such as simplifying complex evidence regarding treatments, identifying areas of consensus versus controversy, and providing concrete tips for navigating among the different treatment options and providers.”
Further research is needed to improve treatment outcomes, increase access and reduce costs, and to establish a patient-centered institute to oversee and maintain resources and the best options for treatment.
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