My Toolkit – Resources for PTSD Survivors & Their Families
I passionately believe that knowledge is power and that education, awareness, and advocacy is essential to recovery from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Because of this, I am writing this fourth instalment to share my personal toolkit to empower those who experience PTSD and to assist those with loved ones who have PTSD.
The following paragraphs include links to support, mental health providers, smartphone applications, podcasts, books, and videos. Utilising the below resources, I am empowered to better understand my own experiences with PTSD. This is My Toolkit.
Disclaimer: Whilst I do have personal experience with PTSD and postgraduate qualifications in Human Services, I am not an accredited mental health professional. I am a retired Queensland Police Officer, an accredited professional with the Australian Community Workers Association, a Personal Trainer, a Wellness Coach and a real (and sometimes flawed) individual on a path to self-improvement. This is my own personal toolkit and I hope it offers you a helpful roadmap to begin your journey. In composing your own toolkit, I thoroughly recommend doing this with the assistance of an accredited mental health service.
I value the importance of sharing relevant information that promotes recovery of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder through awareness, education, advocacy and access to much needed professional supports. My Toolkit and the list of services below are in now not exhaustive and there are many reputable mental health services not included. I have included services that are the ones I’ve either personally used or referred to others.
We are all experts on our own lives and experiences. Recovery from trauma involves working in collaboration with mental health professionals in a way that resonates with you and I, as individuals. So with this in mind, this blog post is also an invitation to share your own experiences and supports that you have utilised personally or vicariously through referrals. You can do this either by commenting in the space below or by sending through a direct email. Please feel welcome to share your own resources so we can expand the toolkits of others.
Where it all starts…
Medicare Mental Health Treatment Plan
My journey to PTSD recovery started with a visit to my GP. Initially, I felt ashamed and weak having to admit that I wasn’t travelling well mentally. But, in reality, I was displaying a great deal of strength and courage to start a conversation that would start my healing from exposure to trauma.
A GP can assist in the treatment process through writing a Mental Health Treatment Plan and referring you to a mental health specialist (Mental Health Social Worker, Psychologist, Occupational Therapist, Psychiatrist etc.) The process of seeing a mental health professional starts with a GP referral. Depending on the specialist referral this plan can give you a number of FREE or subsidized costs associated with your the mental health treatment.
When you book in your GP appointment make sure to book a double consult or inform the person scheduling your appointment that it is for a Mental Health Treatment Plan to allow plenty of time to complete the relevant forms and have detailed and important conversations with your GP. Your GP will ask you a series of questions about your mental state and require you to fill in some forms regarding your current levels of depression and anxiety. These questions can be pretty daunting at first, but they are essential questions for the Doctor to ask to ensure you receive the best possible treatment outcome.
At the conclusion of your consult, your Doctor will then write you a Medicare Mental Health Treatment Plan and a possible referral to an appropriate specialist mental health service. The referral will entitle you to receive:
- 10 individual services, up to 7 of which can be provided by video conference, and
- 10 group services, up to 7 of which can be provided by video conference
After the first 6 sessions, if both you and your mental health specialist believe that it is beneficial for you to return, you will need to make another appointment with your GP and receive another referral to claim the remaining 4 sessions.
If the mental health specialist is not the right fit for you and you don’t feel comfortable accessing their services, it’s important to note that you can see another professional. You are not locked into your counselling sessions with just one sole provider. Find the right fit for you. I was fortunate enough to be referred to a mental health service and a psychologist that I instantly clicked with. Not to say that this process was easy (it was absolutely challenging, confronting and necessary), but having someone that I connected with helped me better navigate this space.
Counselling/Talk Therapy/Psychotherapy/CBT/Psychology…whatever you refer to it as and whatever service you and your GP select, it’s an amazing, educational and empowering place to start.
Daily Intentional & Mindful Body Movement
I passionately believe that mindful and intentional daily movement is essential for mental health regulation. Mental health and physical health are inseparable – you can’t have one without the other. To me, mindful movement involves any form of intentional and purposeful movement of your body. Examples of this can be seen through a practice of strength and conditioning in a gym setting, running in nature, cycling, swimming, yoga, meditation, pilates, martial arts. The list and possibilities are endless. During these practices, I would encourage you to bring your awareness to your breath, your body (think: what muscles are being recruited as part of this movement pattern, is my core engaged, am I utilising my breath to help me perform these movements?) and thoughts – are you truly present in performing these movements? I’ve found that it’s absolutely possible to meditate under a barbell, running an off-road trail and performing yoga.
Whatever modality, bringing awareness to the movements, sensations and thoughts associated have clear health benefits. Research into exercise and mental health conducted by Exercise Right Australia (an online resource powered by Exercise & Sports Science Australia, suggests that regular and mindful movement has been shown to:
*Improve cardio-respiratory fitness and reduce all-cause mortality risk
*Help control weight gain induced by medication
*Improve chronic disease outcomes (especially type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease)
*Decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety
*Improve sleep quality and increase self-esteem
Exercise is an effective component of treatment for mental health regulation and can help manage symptoms and reduce the risk of secondary health conditions. For further reading check out this link
For many, making and keeping a daily mindful movement practice can be a challenge, especially if you are trauma survivor. My highest recommendation to address this is to set a date with yourself and schedule in time to move your body.
We can all be guilty (yes, even me as a coach!) of making up a plethora of excuses as to why don’t move our bodies with intention each and every day. Lack the energy? Bad weather? Can’t find the time? Competing priorities? One of the biggest obstacles that we face on our fitness journey is making movement a habit and part of our non-negotiable daily routine. Habits take time and dedication and this is where it can become tricky for most.
So with this in mind, can you challenge and overcome this obstacle? Here are some really helpful tips that you can implement to find time in your days to make health a priority:
*Schedule your week in advance. Whether it’s a spreadsheet, a digital document or a diary entry, plot the days and the times of the week on a document and schedule in blocks of time for your daily commitments. This includes making a diary date with and for yourself!
*Just do something. Just do some kind of movement. Attend a class, walk/bike to your next meeting, schedule in time for mobility. Even 20, 10 or 5 minutes in each and every day is always better than nothing.
*Prepare. Find and layout your clothes for the next day. Put them in your bag, in the car, in your go-bag for your bike ride.
*Move your body with a friend. Keep it social and fun. Having others involved increases accountability and enjoyment.
Set a date for yourself and make it a daily non-negotiable to take care of your physical and mental health through mindful movement! If you would like to chat further about how to make daily and mindful movement part of your non-negotiable practice, please feel free to leave a comment in the space below or by sending through a direct email. I’d be more than happy to support you on this journey! If you’re based in Melbourne you can also come by and have a face to face chat at our functional training facility, The Fit Project.
Trusted Organisations For Information and Support
This is a list of organisations and services that I trust due to having utilised them personally or I have recommended them to others as part of my role as a Queensland Police Officer. Whilst this list is not exhaustive, it’s a great start to obtain high quality and well-researched information as well as much needed support at the touch of a button.
If your life or the life of another is in danger, call the emergency services:
- Australia – 000
Phone counselling services:
- Lifeline Counselling (24 /7) – 13 1114
- Men’s Line Australia – 1300 78 99 78
- Kids Help Line – 1800 55 1800
- Suicide call back service – 1300 659 467
Websites for mental health information, resources and support:
Australian Clinical Guidelines & Research
If you want to get into the nitty-gritty research and clinical guidelines regarding PTSD, look no further than Phoenix Australia. I have found Phoenix Australia extremely useful in my pursuit to better understand Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Phoenix Australia is a not-for-profit organisation and Australia’s pinnacle research body for trauma and Post Traumatic Mental Health. I have the absolute honour of raising awareness of PTSD and championing the work performed by Phoenix Australia during my ultramarathon in August 2018 (see blog post – ‘Part 2: Owning my PTSD story’ for further information)
The following links below will take readers to ‘The Australian Guidelines for the Treatment of Acute Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. ‘ The guidelines provide a best practice clinical approach to treat PTSD. Approved by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), the Guidelines were developed by Phoenix Australia and a team of Australia’s leading trauma experts.
The complete and comprehensive guidelines can be found here, a summary of the guidelines found here, and a web page explanation of the guidelines, trauma exposure, PTSD diagnosis and treatment options here.
Due to my previous occupation and specific experience as a Queensland Police Officer, I have also included a link to Phoenix Australia’s ‘Expert guidelines: Diagnosis and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder in emergency service workers’
The emergency service guidelines are not only essential reading for any first responder but also the first expert guidance documented on the treatment of PTSD amongst emergency workers to be published anywhere in the world.
Other Resources That May Be Useful
These are additional resources that I have read, listened to, viewed and use regularly. They have empowered me better understand, contextualise and take ownership of my trauma. If you are interested in finding out more regarding PTSD, these resources are a great starting point.
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With education as one of my highest values, I am keen to share the books that I have recently read/reading next. Each one of these is a treasured gift from those who know me well. They range from self improvement, peak athletic performance and processing & sharing stories of trauma. All are incredible reads and I absolutely recommend each one! #reading #book #education #improvement #mindset #coffee #development #dailynonnegotiables #goodreads
Australian True Crime – 33 reasons why I have PTSD *** content & trigger warning ***
What is PTSD? A simple visual whiteboard video explaining the causes, symptoms, treatment & pathology of PTSD
Queensland Police & PTSD – (***CONTENT & TRIGGER WARNING***)
‘Police Paying High Price Serving the Community’ – Australia Wide, ABC Television
A raw and real account of what it’s like to live with trauma (***CONTENT & TRIGGER WARNING***)
I witnessed a suicide | Joseph Keogh | TEDxPSUBehrend
Return from Chaos: Treating PTSD | Peter Tuerk | TEDxCharleston
Understanding PTSD’s Effects on Brain, Body, and Emotions | Janet Seahorn | TEDxCSU
Australian TEDx Talk:
PTSD, a silent battle | Meg Rintoul | TEDxTownsville
Upcoming Blog Post
Please stay tuned for the next blog post in this series, “Part 5: How to have conversations with loved ones if you experience PTSD”. This post will cover my strategies for starting a meaningful engagement regarding your experiences with trauma, triggers & re-experiencing symptoms and the emotional & physical response to these triggers. Also, if you know or love someone with PTSD, Part 5 will also cover how to best support someone who experiences PTSD.
Finally, How To Show Your Support
If you are reading this blog and engaging with the content I’m sharing, thank you. Your subscription to this forum is incredibly humbling and I definitely appreciate your time and energy. If you feel inclined to do so, I ask that you continue to support this forum by one of the options below.
- Help me in my goal of raising awareness of PTSD and support options and my journey by subscribing to this blog, sharing it with your friends and social media platforms.
- If you know of someone who is going through a tough time, have the empathy and the courage to start a meaningful conversation that could truly change or save their life.
- If you wish to support my participation in my ultra-marathon event you can do so by making a donation through my ‘mycause’ page www.mycause.com.au/page/162984 until 1 August 2018. Funds raised through this platform will help to offset the significant preparation costs in representing Australia on the world stage as I run to raise the profile of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- Pledge a donation to Phoenix Australia: Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health via my ‘mycause’ page www.mycause.com.au/page/162984 as well. Your support means more than you realise, not only myself but to others who endure Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Thank you for reading and for being an integral part of changing the face of mental health.
Yours in health,