Guide Offers Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Resources

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 15, 2007 - After watching her own son return home from combat with post-traumatic stress disorder, an Army mom wants to share the lessons she learned -- and resources she found -- with others who find themselves faced with the same challenges.

Emily Afuola said she'll never forget the emotions that tugged at her and her family when they learned that Pvt. Matthew Afuola had been diagnosed with PTSD during his deployment to Afghanistan with the 10th Mountain Division.

"When families find out about this, they're scared and worried. They're in a state of shock and a state of panic," she said.

Afuola sought out every resource she could find to get answers and allay her and her families' concerns. "Initially, it was very, very hard," she said. "But I found that people were out there who wanted to help."

Afuola recognized that other families are confronting the same circumstances and wanted to share what she learned. She joined together with several other members of Blue Star Mothers of America, Inc., to produce a 17-page "Guide to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder" to help them.

"We knew that other families are going through the same thing we did, and we're hoping that through this, they won't have to walk the same path," she said.

The guide offers basic, easy-to-understand information about what causes PTSD and symptoms to look for, as well as advice for getting treatment. It recognizes the effect a servicemember's PTSD has on family members, and the role they can play in helping their loved one deal with the affliction.

One of the guide's most valuable resources is an extensive list of places to turn to for help.

Afuola emphasized that the guide wasn't compiled by mental health professionals and isn't designed to replace the services they offer. "We just realized a need for something like this, and wanted to help make things a little easier for the people affected," she said.

Initially, the Blue Star Mothers had planned to roll out the guide during the group's annual convention in August. But so many people were seeking the information, Afuola said, organizers decided to publish it as quickly as possible. "We realized that there was a need to do something now, not to wait," she said.

Afuola said she's hopeful the guide will help reduce uncertainty surrounding PTSD and encourage more people who have it, or whose loved ones have it, to step forward. "We want to change some of the stigma so people can come forward without fear of retribution," she said.

The guide is available online at the Blue Star Mothers Web site, Afuola also includes her e-mail and phone number in hope that servicemembers or families in crisis will contact her directly.

The message she hopes servicemembers and their families take away from the guide is simple, she said. "There is hope, and people out here who care about you," she said. "We want them to know that even when they can't stand up for themselves, we will stand up for them."

Blue Star Mothers Inc. is a non-partisan, non-political organization committed to supporting servicemembers and their families. It is a partner in the Defense Department's America Supports You program that showcases initiatives groups, companies and individuals nationwide are undertaking to support America's men and women in uniform and their families.
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