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Marchers call for awareness of PTSD

  • Iraq War veteran Matthew Jensen, in yellow shirt, leads the First Annual PTSD Awareness Walk in Howarth Park along Lake Ralphine in Santa Rosa, Calif., on August 3, 2013. (Alvin Jornada / For The Press Democrat)

About 100 people turned out in Howarth Park on Saturday to help raise awareness of and support those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Organizers of the first PTSD Awareness Walk said they hoped the event could help people understand that veterans aren't the only ones who can suffer from the syndrome that often includes anxiety, flashbacks, trouble concentrating and irritability.

"We feel PTSD isn't just for soldiers," said Rita Constantini, a former Army Black Hawk helicopter crew chief who deployed for Operation Provide Comfort II in northern Iraq. "Anybody who's working their way back from trauma can stand with us."

PTSD Awareness Walk

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About 60 people signed up for the event, which included a walk along Lake Ralphine and opportunity for people to make contact with various groups offering services for veterans.

The money raised may help support projects with some of those groups to help reach out to those who suffer from PTSD, Constantini said.

Steve Bossard, a Marine who served in Vietnam before becoming a police officer, said PTSD used to be known as "shell shock" and "battle fatigue." People now realize that it can affect people exposed to all kinds of trauma.

"I've had incidents in police work that were even worse than some of the stuff I've seen in Vietnam," said Bossard, who is now retired.

He said he's suffered flashbacks, bad dreams and a limited range of emotions. Bossard "self-medicated" with alcohol until he learned to recognize that he had PTSD, he said.

It's crucial for people to be sympathetic to those who exhibit symptoms of PTSD and encourage them to get help, Bossard said.

Many veterans don't seek help because of the stigma and sense of shame attached to seeking help for mental illness, Dr. Patrick Reilly told the group.


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