Monthly Archives: January 2012

What is Post Traumatic Stress disorder


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a complex and debilitating condition that can affect every aspect of a person’s life.

It is a psychological response to the experience of an event (or events) of an intensely traumatic nature.  These type of events often involve a risk to life – one’s own or that of one’s colleagues.

It is a condition that can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender or culture.

PTSD has been known to exist since ancient times, albeit under the guise of different names.

During the First World War it was referred to as “shell shock”; as “war neurosis” during WWII; and as “combat stress reaction” during the Vietnam War.  In the 1980s the term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was introduced – the term we still use today.

Although PTSD was first brought to public attention by War Veterans, it can result from any number of traumatic incidents.  The common denominator is exposure to a threatening event that has provoked intense fear, horror or a sense of helplessness in the individual concerned.

The sort of traumatic events that might be experienced by members of the general public include physical assault, rape, accidents or witnessing the death or injury of others – as well as natural disasters, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis and fires.

In the case of Serving personnel, traumatic events mostly relate to the direct experience of combat, to operating in a dangerous war-zone, or to taking part in difficult and distressing peace-keeping operations.

PTSD: Common symptoms

PTSD is characterised by three main symptom clusters. These are re-experiencing, avoidance, and hyper-arousal symptom clusters.

Re-experiencing symptoms

Individuals with PTSD repeatedly relive the event in at least one of the following ways:

  • Intrusive unwanted memories of the traumatic event.
  • Unpleasant nightmares which comprise replays of what happened.
  • Flashbacks where they may suddenly act or feel as if they are reliving the event.
  • They become emotionally upset if something reminds them of the traumatic experience.
  • Palpitations, sweating, feeling tense or shaky if they are reminded about their traumatic experience.

Avoidance symptoms

People with PTSD try to avoid thoughts and feelings related to the traumatic event. They find it extremely difficult at times, as the traumatic images and memories intrude spontaneously.  Symptoms include:

  • Avoidance of activities, places or people which remind them of their trauma.
  • Difficulty remembering exactly what happened during exposure to their traumatic event (this reflects the intense fear at the time of exposure).
  • Becoming less interested in hobbies and activities that they used to enjoy before the traumatic event.
  • Feeling detached and estranged from people, and feeling that nobody understands them – a tendency to isolate themselves.
  • Becoming emotionally numb, and having trouble experiencing their feelings.
  • A sense of futility in relation to their future and feeling that somehow they will be stuck down by yet another disaster or tragedy.

Hyper-arousal symptoms

Hyper-arousal symptoms cause problems with relationships, especially problems generated by irritability and anger.  They include:

  • Great difficulty falling or staying asleep.
  • A tendency to being irritable and angry at the slightest provocation and for trivial reasons.
  • A tendency to become aggressive, verbally or physically, or to become violent towards themselves or others.
  • Great difficulty concentrating, and concentration usually requires effort.
  • Remaining especially alert and watchful (hyper-vigilant).
  • Looking for signs of danger in their environment and in an exaggerated way; they are tuned in to any sign that they might perceive as threatening.

Commonly associated symptoms

The other symptoms that are commonly associated with PTSD relate to feelings of guilt, and difficulty relating to authority figures.

Guilt can take two forms:

  • Guilt in relation to what one should or should not have done during the traumatic exposure.
  • Survivor guilt: while the individual survived relatively intact (physically, at least), others involved in the traumatic experience did not.

In many traumatic exposures, the individual may perceive that the system or hierarchy has let them down, and therefore anger and hostility can be a major factor in the presentation of PTSD.

It should be noted that the most common co-morbid presentations with PTSD are depression and alcohol abuse or dependence.  Co-morbid illness needs to be addressed and treated alongside PTSD.

If you need help there are organisations that can support and assist you:

Contact Telephone: 01372 587000   or email contactus@combatstress.org.uk

OP TOSCA (Part Two) Compulsory mobilised


Blog Episode 2 The Journey Continues

That was that then, the matter was settled. I held the famous brown envelope in my hands and therefore I had indeed been compulsorily mobilised. If there had ever been a good time to sit down and consider whether or not this was actually the right thing to be doing then that moment had now well and truly passed. From reading the inch thick wad of instructions contained within the envelope I learned that I had been given one month before I had to report to Chilwell RTMC, the reserves training and mobilisation centre. This actually seemed very reasonable as I had heard horror stories of previous mobilisations giving a week or less in which to close down your civilian life and get down to Chilwell. As an added bonus I wouldn’t be going alone either, a quick round of phone calls had confirmed that no less than two of my colleagues had also received envelopes. These were identical except that theirs specifically mentioned the United Nations peacekeeping operation ‘TOSCA’ whilst mine simply stated “to be engaged in operations overseas in support of the regular forces”, with nothing to suggest otherwise I assumed that this would be my destination also.                                                                                                            

One month seemed plenty of time, at least it did until i realised just exactly how much is involved in putting your civilian life into hibernation for nine months. For a full time soldier the prospect of an operational tour is challenge enough even though it involves little in the way of lifestyle alterations and there is of course no conflict of interests with an employer. For a reservist however, who is essentially a civilian, the prospect of being deployed on operations is a different ball game altogether, it involves bringing your existing lifestyle to a grinding halt at short notice. For nine months you’ll be overseas, fully preoccupied and certainly not in a position to sort out any issues back home. Putting in contingency plans for every conceivable eventuality whilst away for this period of time is a huge task, one that until you actually do it is impossible to appreciate the scale of.

So it was that for a couple of weeks i immersed myself in a mountain of paperwork. Civvie job, utilities, wills, mortgage, home and contents, childcare, vehicle tax insurance and mot, council tax (here the nice lady on the phone said that being overseas and thus not using any council services whatsoever did not entitle me to any rebate, however they would of course give me 100% discount if I was in prison. Anyone for a revolution?)  a multitude of other tasks. Last on my impressively long list of pre-deployment tasks was my young daughter. In true single parent style I decided to break the news while we fed the ducks, always a good time for big talks I find. However the concept of nine months or “270 sleeps” is hard to grasp for a six year old and thus after listening intently and pondering the idea for some time she told me to make sure that I packed a chocolate bar in case I got a rumbly tummy whilst away. Handkerchief anybody?

My MFO box duly arrived and I filled it (chocolate bar included) with all the things you normally pack when you’re not sure exactly where you will be going and hence are not sure what you will actually need when you get there. There’s a golden rule with MFO boxes though, don’t put anything essential in them–you may not see the box again until the tour is over so such items need to travel with you instead! Regardless of however much thought goes into this task the benefit of post-tour hindsight means that the list of what you actually should have packed rarely bears any resemblance to what you actually packed.

With much to do the month flew by, the reporting day got closer, and all the hassle of pre-deployment only served to make me more eager to actually get away and crack on with the job. So it was that on a late summer’s day I arrived, bergen and black holdall in hand, at RTMC Chilwell…

For more information on joining the Territorial Army visit www.serfca.org or tel: 01252 357605

Kent Air Training Corps Expedition to Kenya


Fourteen members of Kent Wing Air Training Corps (ATC) have just returned from a two week expedition to Kenya thanks to the generous financial support of the Ulysses Trust, RAF Charitable Trust and the Singleton Trust.

The first week was spent climbing to the 4985mpeakofMtKenya. The group climbed via the Sirimon Route starting at 2700m, the first day was a steady climb on a main track in torrential rain to Old Moses Hut at 3300m. Day 2 a 15km trek, still in rain saw the team reach Shipton Hut at 4200m; having entered a more sub-alpine climate protection from the weather was limited. However as the clouds parted on reaching the hut they were rewarded with their first views of the triple summits of MtKenya. Day 3 was an acclimatisation day toMintosColat 4600m, taking the team above 15,000ft for the first time, before returning to Shipton Hut. Rising at 0200hrs on Day 4 the team were met with heavy snow making the climb slower and cold. Reaching Square Tarn for sunrise the team paused to take in the stunning views before continuing on to summit just before 0800hrs, with clear blue skies and a view of Kilimanjaro on the horizon.

For many of the cadets this was achieved against a real physical test. Not just the debilitating effects of altitude, for all of the cadets it was their first experiences above 1000m Above sea level, but also the fact that some of the team had suffered or were still suffering the effects of a vomiting bug brought from the UK that nearly all team members suffered from at some point on the trip.

However the day had only just started, another two hours took the team to Mintos Tarn where they had breakfast, before continuing to descend above the spectacular Chogoria Gorge to arrive at their campsite by theNithiRiverat 1630hrs, after nearly 15 hrs of walking. The following day was an easy descent to Meru Bandas where the team had showers, albeit cold, for the first time in a week. However the euphoria was short lived as they woke next morning to the news they faced a 12km extra walk to meet their support vehicles as the track was in such poor condition they could only reach half way along the exit path. This was emphasised by an “interesting” ride out in 4x4s.

Phase two was a community project based with a Maasai village in remote Maji Moto. Here the team lived amongst a traditional Maasai tribe where they not only learnt about Maasai culture but were able to undertake Maasai “Warrior Training” and undertook a walking safari with Maasai guides. They also met an inspirational woman who was trying to break the chain of denying young females education by setting up her own school for the children of Maasai widows. Visiting the school, and the nearby mixed primary school, the team helped plant trees with school children, installed a solar panel which they had fundraised for, and ran a sports day for the school leaving behind a large quantity of sports equipment and stationary they had managed to get donated.

The final two days were spent on safari where they saw the “Big 5” in a two hour period as well as just about every species the Maasai Mara has to offer courtesy of the wetter, more temperate weather.

Such was the effect of the Maasai experience that plans are already afoot to return in 2013 with two teams and build a new classroom block for the school so that more children will have the opportunity to get an education.

For more information on joining the Cadet’s visit www.serfca.org tel: 01252 357605