June is National PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) Awareness Month and we would like to raise awareness to the fact that many survivors of human trafficking struggle with long-lasting PTSD.
The Mayo Clinic defines PTSD as “a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it.” Many survivors of human trafficking experience this PTSD as a result of their conditions, among many other mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, flashbacks, shame or guilt, and thoughts of suicide. While these issues tend to decrease in prevalence with time, PTSD increases after the incident of trafficking. When something triggers the mind, not only does the survivor recall these horrible memories, they relive the traumatic experience and are sent into the fight, flight, or freeze response.
According to a study by Hossain et al., higher levels of PTSD, depression, and anxiety were associated with those who experienced injuries and sexual violence during trafficking. The same was found for those who experienced a longer period of abuse during trafficking. However, while anxiety and depression decreased with more time since the trafficking, PTSD levels remained the same. This shows the effect on survivors who suffer the long-lasting impact of PTSD due to their trauma and the importance of resources for their recovery. These PTSD episodes can interfere with a survivor’s ability to live a normal life after their trauma, and can make coping with daily stress even more difficult to manage. The more frequent these episodes are, the more debilitating it can be for a survivor. These flashbacks or nightmares can cause feelings of sadness, fear, or anger as well as make the survivor feel
detached or estranged from other people. PTSD can be made even more challenging for survivors suffering from a substance abuse disorder after attempting to self-medicate. Access to mental health resources, tools for coping mechanisms and recovery, and awareness of the challenges of PTSD are all very important in addressing the needs of trafficking survivors.
The signs and symptoms of PTSD can include intrusive memories, flashbacks or nightmares, always being on guard or uneasy, trouble sleeping/concentrating, avoidance of people and places, negative changes in thinking or mood, and suicidal thoughts or attempts. If you or a loved one are suffering from PTSD or mental health crises, it is recommended that you reach out to a close friend or loved one and make an appointment with your doctor or a mental health professional. You can reach the United States suicide hotline known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor.
For more information on how to #EndHumanTrafficking you can visit the GlobalHope365.org website at this link for Human Trafficking Resources: https://www.globalhope365.org/human-trafficking-resources.
Take action to stop trafficking by visiting this page:
Tell Congress to take action on the EARN IT Act. We must contact members of Congress, both Senators and U.S. Representatives, to ask them to co-sponsor two identical bills: S 3538 in the Senate and H.R. 6544 in the House. Help Us Raise Funds to Implement Human Trafficking Prevention Programs in Schools according to AB1227.
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Hossain, M., Zimmerman, C., Abas, M., Light, M., & Watts, C. (2010). The relationship of trauma
to mental disorders among trafficked and sexually exploited girls and women. American journal
of public health, 100(12), 2442–2449. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2009.173229