Valley Patriot Mascot, Kane
Kane knows Representative Colleen Garry.
In fact, she is known by many as a strong supportive advocate of the medical front line workers, veterans, police officers, firefighters, EMS, and other first responders. What does she do that is so unique?
Well, Kane says she does the most important thing possible; she listens to her constituents. She seeks out the professionals in these stressful fields and brings them to the table. Representative Garry is also very patriotic; he saw her speak at Veterans Memorial Park on a Memorial Day last year.
Under Massachusetts House Bill 2091, a representative of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services and the Department of Mental health will chair a 17 person team of professionals tasked with updating the advances in research on diagnosis and treatment of PTSD, advances in access to care for individuals with PTSD, coordination of activities and programs that promote education and awareness on Post traumatic stress disorder, research of successful treatments and outcomes for individuals diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as barriers to treatment. and research on the treatment of PTSD associated with the coronavirus and successful treatment and outcome.
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The Commonwealth shall submit it’s recommendations to the Governor and the Clerks of the House of Representatives and Senate annually.
Kane asked who will serve on the Committee? To name a few, agencies will include Secretary of Veteran Affairs, The American Legion, the Veterans Administration, the Department of Children and Families, Boston Children’s Hospital, Jane Doe Association, the Massachusetts Police Association, the immigrant refugee association, the Professional Firefighters Association, EMS, and the Massachusetts Nursing Association. Kane thought wow, that will be a lot of knowledgeable people on one committee.
Kane sees the importance of talking openly about post-traumatic stress disorder. Our neighbors that serve as veterans, police officers, firefighters, EMS, and medical personal are knowledgeable of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder since the symptoms are frequently observed during their daily work duties. However, those serving in these high-risk professions are at risk of developing Post Traumatic stress themselves since their profession exposes them to trauma, a culprit in developing Post Traumatic stress.
So why do some people develop post-traumatic stress and others do not, good question thought Kane, but we really do not know. Do these workers feel they can get help for PTSD without repercussions from work, or fear of stigma.
Well, that is a loaded question, for many they fear judgement and wonder if they would be deemed less fit for duty than their peers. With a suicide rate at 22 deaths a day in the veteran population, it is obvious as a country we have not figured out how to support our returning veterans. With stigma attached, people continue to feel alone in their struggle. Kane was sad to hear that people didn’t feel comfortable asking for help. He usually barks at people or gives them the paw if he needs something.
The watered-down version of the full DSM5 Diagnosis of PTSD, is eloquently defined by the National Center for PTSD as a mental health challenge developed after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event such as combat, an accident, natural disaster, assault, or sexual assault to name a few. Symptoms include reliving the event in nightmares, flashbacks, avoiding situations that remind you of the event, negative changes in beliefs, hyperarousal, not feeling you fit in, avoiding social situations, isolation, not feeling connected to loved ones and peers, and the list goes on.
So, what do we do? Kane thought we could start by passing this bill that would bring local awareness and education to our community, it will also bring the professionals to the table putting those who know most in the driver’s seat, continue to support the amazing research conducted by the VA, and help people find resources. Many in the state may not know that we are in the middle of a mental health crisis and it has become impossible to find mental health providers for many. Many providers have long waiting lists and residential treatment facilities have been overly full for months.
So, Kane was interested in learning what the most effective treatment practices for post-traumatic stress disorder is.
He found helpful research through the National Center for PTSD, U S Department of Veteran Affairs that trauma focused therapy has been deemed as having the most successful outcomes. Modalities that fit that definition include Cognitive Processing Therapy, (understanding how trauma changes our thoughts and feelings), prolonged exposure therapy. (Openly discussing trauma) and EMDR (helping your brain reprocess the trauma memories so it feels more neutral) Kane works in a facility where EMDR is practiced but it is very private, so he usually gets kicked out of the room.
Kane has also attended training on Acceptance Commitment Therapy being used by the Veteran’s Association where people notice negative thoughts and judgement that limit their life progress, allow the thoughts without getting overly involved in the content move through their awareness, then move their energy towards their value.
As an example, if Kane’s mind told him he shouldn’t pass the scary spider Halloween Decoration down the street and he should hide in the house, he would notice he has this fear, but remind himself his value is to get fresh air and socialize with the people in his neighborhood to stay happy He will put his energy in getting outside instead of the content of his fear. Kane wants you to know that his example is small compared to the experience of many people but starting small is the way to go and spider decorations are very scary.
Kane hopes Bill 2091 is passed so knowledgeable people can come together to work on these complex issues that affect so many of our local first responders and members of our community in general. We ask them to take care of us, why wouldn’t we support their needs. When Kane came from Tennessee, he was afraid of being alone, going down the stairs, and having cars pass by.
He was able to let people know about his worries so they could help him through the situation. He doesn’t want there to be the stigma and judgement to seek treatment when needed. As for passing outside spider decorations-, well that is a work in process but it’s ok to talk about with friends. ◊