The Faith Community needs to be educated about PTSD too!

by | May 20, 2012

Because of the following comment from Dan and Elaina, including their experience in attending a church they loved, I am re-posting my blog from May 16, 2012,

My psychiatrist friend and mentor, Dr. Erv Janssen, from Tulsa, Oklahoma, sent me a book written by the faith community, Welcome Them Home, Help Them Heal: Pastoral care and ministry with service members returning from war,

Rural communities are not always equipped with the resources from the VA nor local non-profits to help educate and lead the community in support of combat veterans returning home from war.  The ideal solution, but no less a challenge, is to get churches in your smaller community involved and engaged with PTSD awareness.  Church leaders must be contacted and provided with the information and resources so that the empathy needed to work with those who suffer from the symptoms of PTSD can become heartfelt.  There is a solution where those affected find that a particular church or faith group does not understand or relate.  The faith community can be just as ignorant on this subject as the average person because average people go to church.  Community leaders and residents who attend church need to help themselves before God can help them.  Sit down with your church leaders and show them the way…  Next step is to speak directly to the faith community at large, especially in church on Sunday, or any other time there is a gathering of the faithful.

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

Dan and Elaina* ~ said…

Thank you, Steve, for what you are doing to help people become aware of the invisible injury of PTSD. Since both my husband and I have severe PTSD, we two are like the blind trying to lead the blind, sometimes, as we stumble along through life being dysfunctional together.

The good part about it is that we understand each other, we don’t get upset and frustrated with each other for not being “normal.” But the bad part about it is that nobody is functioning very well much of the time! Then people look at us from the outside, they look at our dysfunctional life and treat us like we’re faking or lazy.

We were even ostracized in a church we loved, when the people found out that my husband was on disability for his Vietnam Combat PTSD. It seemed like they thought you can’t be a true Christian and have PTSD! Christians can have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems, cancer, they can need to wear hearing aids and glasses, but you must not be living right in the eyes of the Lord if you have a “mental illness” or a “mood disorder….” Where’s your faith, where’s your trust in God, etc. How can you have anxiety, depression, flashbacks, and anxiety attacks, if you are obeying the Biblical commands to “fear not” and to have joy in the Lord?

When you can’t even find compassionate people in Church…it gets very lonely having PTSD!


Wes Campbell wrote:

“Hard to explain to someone who has no clue. Or doesn’t believe you. It’s a daily struggle being in pain or feeling sick on the inside while you look fine on the outside. Please put this as your status for at least 1 hour if you or someone you know has an invisible illness (Pancreatitis, Crohn’s, IBS, PTSD, Anxiety, Bipolar, Depression, Diabetes, LUPUS, Fibromyalgia, MS, ME, Arthritis, Cancer, …
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry.”

The above statement is very powerful! The goal of PTSD awareness is a huge challenge. Under 10 million Americans suffer from PTSD according to the latest statistics. It is a large number but a small minority in the context of over 300 million USA population. Since researching and writing my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, I have become highly sensitive to the countless others who have not had an opportunity to experience or know the symptoms of severe PTSD resulting from traumatic events i.e., combat and life after war. When you can’t see it or experience the pain of another person’s hidden illness, it is virtually impossible to have any empathy or compassion. I am encouraged with all the media coverage, including social media, providing exponentially more information on this subject. It will take time, lots of time, but the meaningful work of PTSD awareness is critical and must continue with every means available. Otherwise, the help and compassion from the larger community will be difficult to achieve.

Steve Sparks
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

About the author

Steve Sparks is a retired information technology sales and marketing executive with over 35 years of industry experience, including a Bachelors’ in Management from St. Mary’s College. His creative outlet is as a non-fiction author, writing about his roots as a post-WWII US Navy military child growing up in the 1950s-1960s.
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