PTSD Awareness Day 

By Chloe Hall

Thursday 27th June is designated PTSD awareness day. It was first organised in the US in 2010, when the Senate nominated that day in memory of Joseph Biel, a former Staff Sergeant who had served in the North Dakota Air National Guard. A year after returning home from his second tour of Iraq, he took his own life aged just 37, having battled with PTSD. Like many service personnel, Joseph had served in very difficult conditions. One of his duties was to locate, disable and remove IADs (improvised explosive devices). June 27th was his birthday.  PTSD UK is a charity which continues to raise awareness of the impact of this condition, and is organising events and publicity to mark the day. 

How many people experience PTSD? 

Researchers estimate that ten percent of people experience PTSD at some stage during their lives. However, there’s a deeply concerning follow up statistic: the researchers state that perhaps seventy percent of people with PTSD in the UK will not receive any kind of medical help.


There are several reasons why so few people receive professional medical advice and support. 

First, people may understand that they are struggling following a traumatic experience, but they may not realise that they have PTSD. Second, some people might assume that symptoms are an ongoing response, something which they believe they can manage as they go about their everyday lives. Yet those same symptoms can intrude into each area of life and become quite overwhelming. Third, other people may not appreciate that there are treatments available to help them to recover from, or manage, their symptoms. Fourth, some people still assume that conditions such as PTSD cannot be successfully treated, especially if the traumatic experience was from years ago. The good news is that experts have demonstrated that PTSD can be successfully treated, even a long time after the traumatic experience occurred. 

Unfortunately, some people may remain undiagnosed because they have developed additional mental health problems such as anxiety and depression which make it more challenging for medical professionals to detect PTSD as the root cause. 

Regrettably, many people find it difficult to reach out and talk about the way they are feeling. They would prefer to keep things to themselves. Hence it is crucial to raise awareness as PTSD UK are doing. They concentrate on three key areas: causes of PTSD, symptoms, and available treatments. 

Some potential causes of PTSD

The NHS outlines a number of experiences which can lead to PTSD. 

In each example, the incident is very frightening and stressful, but of course PTSD could equally be caused by prolonged trauma, and repetitive reflection on it:

  • a serious accident
  • an assault, whether sexual or physical
  • bereavement, such as the loss of a child or baby
  • the breakdown of a society or community
  • war, conflict or torture
  • a natural disaster
  • abuse, whether emotional or physical
  • a serious personal health issue
  • a personal feud
  • robbery, burglary or mugging
  • work related trauma

Symptoms of PTSD

A person with PTSD may fixate on the traumatic event, and might relive incidents through a nightmare or unexpected flashback. They may feel a sense of guilt, and seem irritable or distracted. They may not be like their usual self. In all likelihood they will seem more comfortable being on their own.

Somebody with PTSD is likely to appear tired, have problems concentrating, and may find their regular sleeping pattern is severely disrupted. They may find socialising with family or friends a daunting prospect. These symptoms are usually intrusive, distracting and long lasting.

Those who are most at risk

Approximately thirty percent of people who experience a traumatic incident develop PTSD. Following a traumatic event, somebody is more likely to develop symptoms of PTSD if they have ever had anxiety or depression, live on their own and have little contact with friends or relatives. Experts think that people whose parents or grandparents had a mental health problem may be more susceptible to developing PTSD. 

Treatments for PTSD

Treatment is based on observation, talking therapy, medication and tailored plans which address the ways in which people process memories of events. One treatment, EMDR (eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing), aims to focus a person’s attention briefly on the trauma while at the same time they experience bilateral stimulation (usually when their eyes follow a stimulus, for instance, a therapist’s hand signals). This therapy aims to reduce the intensity of the emotional response to the original trauma, together with its vividness in the memory. In time these approaches should mean that nightmares, fixations and flashbacks begin to fade and ultimately stop altogether. 

Author Anna Britton describes some personal coping mechanisms which she employs to mitigate her lifelong PTSD. She finds being outdoors, perhaps walking with her dog, or even just sitting on the back door step, helps her to ‘calm the noise’, as she describes it. However, being outdoors doesn’t have to mean kayaking – another activity which Anna really enjoys. A short stroll could also be therapeutic.

Creative writing is something which also helps Anna to pull back from ‘fearful patterns of thinking’. She is convinced that writing about fictional characters and their trauma has been ‘incredibly healing’ for her. 


A central message of PTSD day is that nobody should be afraid to ask for help, or put off reaching out. Joseph Biel’s story bears testimony to that fact, but the annual day (and month) designated in his memory means that there are now more people able to help, there is a wealth of medical research and expertise available, and there is increasingly greater awareness of PTSD across society. 


For more information about PTSD please visit:

For more information about PTSD day, 27th June, please visit:

There’s a lot of advice and help online for anyone who is finding things difficult. You could try looking at one or more of these sources of information:

HFEH Mind Adult Services

HFEH Mind CYP Services


The Circle – Children and Young Peoples Crisis Cafe and Hub

Young Minds

NHS – Every Mind Matters

If you live in Hammersmith, Fulham, Ealing or Hounslow then join our Physical and Mental Health Focus Group and help shape the future of mental health.

Posted on: 27th June 2024

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