Scars Aren’t Always On The Inside

By Mirjana Hutnik – 9th Grade, Peters Township High School

Last Thursday, a very special screening premiered at Soldiers and Sailors Hall in Oakland.  An organization called Seeds of Hope created the documentary, Our Way Home, to show veterans who are struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder they are not alone and that the community is here to help them heal.  Mayor Bill Peduto made an appearance at the event and spoke about what the community of Pittsburgh is doing to help.  As of January 2014, there were 487 homeless veterans in the region.  Thanks to the help of the citizens and government of Pittsburgh, 88% of these veterans were provided with comfortable housing.  Today, there are only 59 homeless veterans.  The documentary is by far the largest solo project of Seeds of Hope, whose activities originally consisted of planting small gardens for tranquility and to provide produce to veterans and their families.  The documentary took three years to film, edit, and produce until it was ready for the public eye.  The time and effort put into making the film was clearly conveyed throughout, along with the heart and passion from the people in front of and behind the camera.

 

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a serious illness for both those who suffer and their loved ones.  Co-founder of Seeds of Hope, Alexis Werner, has experienced the hardships of this first hand.  In 2010, her stepfather came home from a tour in Afghanistan with PTSD.  She then started the organization as a high school freshman to raise awareness and attempt to put an end to the mental anguish that eight million returning veterans come home to.  PTSD is a mental illness that is triggered by taking part in or witnessing a traumatic event such as warfare or a gruesome car accident of some kind.  The healthy reaction to these unfortunate situations is a “fight or flight” mindset where you choose to engage further or flee the scene.  This reaction is altered when PTSD is present.  The “fight or flight” is often triggered when no danger is present, making victims often on edge, afraid, and hypervigilant.  Signs and symptoms also include flashbacks, reclusion, or sudden outbursts of anger or depression.  People suffering from this disorder often have to change their day to day actions because of the constant fear and depression they live with.

 

During PTSD, the brain is also going through numerous unusual activities.  Much of the public seems to think that it is just a hypersensitive nervous system, but it is much more serious. A part of the brain called the amygdala controls fear, while the prefrontal cortex controls emotion.  These two feed off of each other sort of like the domino effect.  When the amygdala is used when it is not needed, the prefrontal cortex also then goes onto a frenzy-like state which; since it cannot produce new emotions, it must refer to the ones previously known.  That means referring back to the traumatic event that caused PTSD and this is a cycle that then starts again in the amygdala.  The only way for the victims to stop this cycle is to stop the amygdala from entering a mode of fear when fear is not present.  These people must reassess their rational and irrational fears and learn not to worry about the irrational ones.  During war, these must be clumped together because there is no way to know what is coming.  Once returning home, it is difficult to divide the two again.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is no joke and exceeding amounts of time and money are going into research and treatment for a cure.  Right now there is no cure; just ways to cope with it.  People often forget or ignore that even if there is no harm on the outside there is a chance it might be on the inside.  There are effects on both sides of the bullet.  Seeds of Hope has been raising awareness on this issue for years and they deserve support.  To help, please visit ourwayhomeforvets.org and remember that even if you cannot see it, that does not mean that it  is not there.


Mirjana Hutnik Mirjana Hutnik is a freshman at Peters Township High School.  She likes to play softball, travel, watch Netflix & hang out with friends.

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