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Inquiry Project Report

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder:


The Silent Killer

By Stephen Butler
Introduction

Floating through the atmosphere of our society is a silent killer in the form of Post-
Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The Mayo Clinic defines PTSD as a mental health
condition that is triggered by a terrifying event either experiencing it or witnessing it (Post-
Traumatic Stress Disorder, 2017). Our groups inquiry project was based on the stigma
surrounding PTSD, helping others to understand what PTSD is, and spreading awareness
about the nature of PTSD in an attempt to help create a culture of understanding and
acceptance. Throughout the course of this report I will reflect on what I have learned, as well
as my experiences working on the inquiry project. I will also discuss what health education
could be in the future and propose recommendations for the future.

New Learning

Throughout the course of this inquiry project I developed more knowledge about
PTSD and the scope of people who are affected by it. I believe that the most important thing
that I have learned, particularly as a person who suffers from PTSD, is that I am not alone.
There is a largely negative stigma around mental illness in general that has been engrained in
our culture for some time (Sawer, & Savy, 2014). Through my group experience, and the
conversations that people have had with me since our presentation, it quickly became clear
that I was not alone, even in our classroom. One of my group members was suffering from it
as well. After the presentation, I was approached by other class members who thanked me for
the question and answer portion of my presentation because they have been secretly
suffering for years and now had the courage to seek help.

The prevalence rates of PTSD are alarming. PTSD is the second most common
anxiety disorder in Australia (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, 2014). Even accounting for the
influx of refugees and immigrants form war-torn countries, more than half of the population
in Australia will experience trauma in their lives. Many of these will experience the effects of
PTSD. On average 10%, or 800,000 Australians, report that they currently experience
symptoms of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder affects 800,000, 2013). This number is
likely to be much higher, but many people are afraid to seek help.
Reflection on the Project Experience

Our group worked very well together. We started our project right away. We
coordinated assignments to build our presentation. While preparing this project, we spent a
lot of time researching. We spent more than seven hours compiling our research and building
a PowerPoint presentation. By starting this project early and making it a priority, our
teamwork attitude achieved a well-thought out and researched presentation. Our teamwork
allowed for us to finish the project within the given time frame and enrich our presentation.

My personal experience in teaching large groups assisted our presentation. My


practical experience gave me the confidence to speak loudly and clearly. I designed my
portion of the PowerPoint to act as my notes, thereby, not requiring physical cue cards. This
enabled me to keep eye contact with the audience which helped to keep them engaged.

During one of our later group meetings, I suggested a question and answer time for
my portion of presentation. Even though this was difficult for me personally, it brought our
presentation to a more relatable focal point. It showed everyone in the class that they knew at
least one person who was suffering from PTSD. It also gave the class a rare opportunity to
ask questions of a PTSD sufferer. Questions that they may not have been able to get
answered any other way. It made it real for them and started the process of dissolving the
stigma surrounding mental illness in their own minds. The feedback given on this portion of
the presentation was all positive.

Our PTSD Awareness campaign gave us some positive feedback as well. We gave out
ribbons to spread awareness and asked the class to give it to someone if they asked what it
was. We saw many of our ribbons on campus later that week and they were not being worn
by our classmates. Our silent awareness program was working.

One week into our project, we lost a group member that had left the topic. This took
our group number down to three. Our remaining group members were all diligent students, so
we did not worry too much about being able to get our presentation done. However, it did
increase the amount of time and workload that was required from each member to complete
the task.

On the feedback sheets from the class, we found that not all our group members were
as engaging as others and that our videos were too long. A lack of public speaking experience
caused poor eye contact and reading exclusively from the cue cards. The videos that we chose
were longer and too numerous. The extra videos detracted from the engagement of the class,
even though many of them were useful. This meant that the classroom engagement to swing
back and forth on a pendulum between engrossed and disinterested.

Reflection on What Health Education Could Be

Health education has the potential to be much more than it is now. One example of
this would be to use public health education as a platform for awareness. During my groups
inquiry project, we learned that many people are unaware of how common mental illness is in
Australia. We also learnt that PTSD affects not only men in battlefield situations, but also
effects women and children who have never seen a battlefield (Creamer, Burgess,
&McFarlane, 2001). The stigma that has been built up in our society around mental illness
has made it taboo to discuss openly. This taboo makes it difficult for those who suffer to seek
help. Health education could assist in spreading this type of awareness.

The stigmatism surrounding mental health and other issues have become an integrated
part of our history since the beginning of time. Whether we are talking about mental illness,
or the proper treatment of the aboriginal people. The use of health education as a platform has
the potential to break the cycle of stigmatism (Corrigan & Watson, 2002). Breaking this cycle
is imperative to the future of the world that we leave our children in to live.

Over the two weeks that our class inquiry projects were presented, I noticed a theme.
The impression and attention of the class seemed to have less to do with the research, and had
more to do with when a member of the group had personally witnessed or experienced the
topic that they shared first hand. In my case, it had to do with the eye-opening of the class
when I revealed that I suffered from PTSD. I could see first intrigue and confusion, later,
understanding, respect, and acceptance after I allowed the class to ask me questions. Another
student spoke of atrocities committed at Port Lincoln and how it affected him and his
neighbours. Others spoke of friends and parents of friends committing suicide in their rural
community due to a bad years crop on the family farm. The theme that I saw was real people
talking about real problems that affected them right here in South Australia. I believe that
these real, affected people spreading awareness are the potential cure for the problems
surrounding these taboos and stigmatisms.
Through the platform of health education, people who have experienced the problems
associated with stigmatism have an opportunity to build a new culture. A culture of
awareness and acceptance is the key to a better future. This culture could be designed and
built around the ideas of awareness and acceptance of all people (Yang, Kleinman, Link,
Phelan, Lee, & Good, 2007). Along with the discussion of implementing programs for mental
health awareness the optimal age of the learner must be considered.

There is evidence to show that programs, like awareness programs for mental illness,
are very effective (Pinfold, Toulmin, Thorncroft, Huxley, Farmer, &Graham, 2003). If these
programs are to be effective, I believe that we must use these real people who have
experienced the hardships to build, adapt, and teach these programs. Teaching awareness to
middle school-aged students has shown to be the best age bracket to effect measurable
change (Pinfold, et al., 2003). Changing the hearts and minds of our children through health
education could very well change our future for the better.

Conclusion

Throughout the course of this report, we have discussed the inquiry project. We have
discussed what I have learned from this project as well as my experiences from taking part in
it. Finally, I have discussed what I think the potential of health education could look like and
present this question: How can we implement the use of health education as a platform for
awareness and acceptance? I have given my interpretation of a plan, and propose a mental
health awareness program be started in the middle schools in the area. I intend to offer myself
as a volunteer to help in the design and implementation of a program for local school.
Someone must take the first step in creating a better world for our children.
Reference List
Brown, M. (2013). Retrieved June 5, 2017, ABC News, Sydney Web site:
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-08-27/ptsd-depression-mental-illness/4915164
Corrigan, P. W., & Watson, A. C. (2002). The paradox of selfstigma and mental
illness. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 9(1), 35-53.
Creamer, M., Burgess, P., & McFarlane, A. C. (2001). Post-traumatic stress disorder:
findings from the Australian National Survey of Mental Health and Well-
being. Psychological medicine, 31(07), 1237-1247.
Foa, E. B., Keane, T. M., Friedman, M. J., & Cohen, J. A. (Eds.). (2008). Effective treatments
for PTSD: practice guidelines from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.
Guilford Press.
Lowinger, H. (2014). Retrieved June 6, 2017, ABC Health and Well-being, Sydney Web site:
http://www.abc.net.au/health/library/stories/2014/04/17/3984798.htm 2nd anx
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017). Retrieved June 6, 2017, from the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Mayo
Clinic Website: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-
disorder/home/ovc-20308548
Pinfold, V., Toulmin, H., Thornicroft, G., Huxley, P., Farmer, P., & Graham, T. (2003).
Reducing psychiatric stigma and discrimination: evaluation of educational interventions in
UK secondary schools. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 182(4), 342-346.
Sawer, A., & Savy, P. (2014). Second Opinions: an introduction to health sociology. In
Germov, J. (Ed.) Mental illness: understandings, experience, and service provision. (pp.247-
262). South Melbourne, Australia:Oxford University Press.
Yang, L. H., Kleinman, A., Link, B. G., Phelan, J. C., Lee, S., & Good, B. (2007). Culture
and stigma: adding moral experience to stigma theory. Social science & medicine, 64(7),
1524-1535.

Student Health Website


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