PTSD Awareness Day: Vet helping other vets through massage therapy

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Roughly eight in every 100 Americans will experience post-traumatic stress disorder in their lifetime, according to the National Center for PTSD.

June 27 marks national PTSD awareness day. While it's commonly associated with military personnel, the disorder can affect a variety of different people.

Yolanda Claibourn served 16 years in the Navy and still experiences her share of triggers for the disorder. Now, she's focused on helping others through their diagnosis, in a hands-on way.

"I'd like to focus on veterans who can come in and have a holistic approach to healing, instead of medication and pharmaceuticals," she said. "Massage, it heals."

Claibourn's business (Claibourn's Wellness & Massage) is part of the Hands for Heroes program which focuses on bodywork as a treatment for veterans with disorders.

She's offering free massages for vets who suffer from PTSD.

"[I want them] to just see how they're going to feel," she said. "I know it works for me, so if it works for me, I have the training to help someone else.

"Trauma is actually one of the more treatable types of mental illnesses at this point or disorders," said Dr. Rachel LeVine, Ph.D., at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center.

Dr. LeVine works as a psychologist at the VA Medical Center in downtown Charleston.

The hospital sees more than 70,000 patients a year, a large number of them who take part in therapy services there for PTSD.

Those services include prolonged exposure therapy and cognitive processing therapy.

"Therapy is very effective at treating trauma symptoms," LeVine said. "In the past treatment was all about making sure people's symptoms were managed. Now treatment is actually about reducing their symptoms."

Depending on the insurance provider these services like the ones offered at the VA Medical Center are covered, but for alternative therapy, like massages, it's not.

"I think research would need to be done on the effectiveness of these different kinds of treatments before insurance might cover those things," LeVine said. "But there might be a time in the future."

"[I think] massage should be covered by insurance or it should be paid for by the government to heal our veterans," Claibourn "They've given to us, we need to give back."

While recovery from PTSD may not be immediate, the hope from these providers is to make life a bit easier for people dealing with the disorder.

LeVine added Charleston is one of the better places to seek treatment for PTSD because of its well-known residency locations.

According to the National Center for PTSD, individuals who experience PTSD can deal with a variety of symptoms:

  • Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms)
    • You may feel like you’re going through the event again (a flashback)
    • You may see, hear, or smell something that causes you to relive the event (a trigger)
  • Avoiding situations that remind you of the event
    • Avoid situations, people, or talking about the event
  • Negative changes in beliefs or feelings
    • You may lose positive feelings towards other people
    • You may lose trust in people due to triggers
  • Feeling keyed up (hyperarousal)
    • You may have a hard time sleeping
    • You may have a hard time concentrating
    • You may be startled by loud noises or surprised
    • You may be jittery or always on alert

Click here for a list of services in Charleston tailored to helping treat PTSD.

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