Senator Beach-Van Drew Resolution Bringing Awareness to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Heads to Governor

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TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator James Beach and Jeff Van Drew designating June 27 of each year as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day today cleared the full Senate.

The purpose of SJR-71 is to bring awareness to those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) and to encourage people to reach out to their fellow citizens to provide support and remove the stigma associated with this disorder. The resolution would respectfully request the Governor to annually issue a proclamation calling upon public officials and citizens of this State to observe “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day” with appropriate activities and programs.

“We need to bring awareness to this illness so people know the horrors and tragedies that come a long with it,” said Senator Beach (D-Burlington/Camden). “The brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces, who proudly serve the nation and risk their lives to protect our freedom, deserve the investment of every possible resource to ensure their lasting physical, mental, and emotional well-being. A high percentage of service members can develop post-traumatic stress within a year of leaving combat, while others may not develop symptoms until years later. We need to ensure they have the resources available.”

“Members of our military suffer both physical and mental wounds,” said Senator Van Drew (D-Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland). “The issue for PTSD or any other mental health issue is the stigma that goes with it. We need to raise awareness of this problem and be there for those who are suffering. When someone is found to have diabetes, we give them the necessary treatment they need, and when someone breaks a bone, we give them a cast.  We need to do the same for people who have PTSD. These are individuals who feel misunderstood and sometimes neglected and it’s time they know they have resources.”

According to Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 7.7 million Americans age 18 and older have PTSD. The challenges that come with PTSD often include depression, substance abuse, or other anxiety disorders.

Post-traumatic stress is associated with chemical changes in the body’s hormonal system and autonomic nervous system and is characterized by symptoms including flashbacks, avoidance, hypervigilance, and anxiety. Although treatable, those who suffer with post-traumatic stress may not seek treatment due to a lack of knowledge about this injury or from the fear of being stigmatized. According to a 2011 PTSD pilot study of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans, these veterans showed a 50 percent reduction in PTSD symptoms after eight weeks of meditation.

SJR-71 cleared the full Senate 38-0 and cleared the Assembly 77-0 in June. It now heads to the governor’s desk.