Newtown’s 1st Responders and post traumatic stress disorder: The Navy’s remedy is spirituality

©Glow Images. Model is used for illustrative purposes only.

©Glow Images. Model is used for illustrative purposes only.


“Our concern from the beginning has been the effects of PTSD,” said Eric Brown, a lawyer for the union that represents the Newtown police. “We estimate it is probably going to be 12 to 15 Newtown officers who are going to be dealing with that, for the remainder of their careers, we imagine, from what we’ve been told by professionals who deal with PTSD.”  New York Times, 1/29/13, Reliving horror and faint hope at massacre site

The heart breaking article quoted above is the first hand account by seven of the first responders to Sandy Hook Elementary School on the morning of December 14th.  Their grief still fresh, the traumatic toll on their personal and professional lives is beginning to surface.  Yet, there is good news to be shared here from the experiences of United States servicemen and service women who are finding relief from the predicted long-term effects and traditional drug based therapy of those diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The United States Navy Chaplain Corps, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, has published the 107 page, “Handbook on Best Practices for the Provision of Spiritual Care to Persons with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury”.   A guide written by chaplains for chaplains, supportive text is quoted from the Old Testament, New Testament, Qur’an, and writings of Buddha.

These military PTSD sufferers have found success by turning from what has been lost and the difficulties of the struggle to a focus on what there is to be thankful for and “ways in which they may have some hope for the future based on seeing God’s presence in their struggle… to find parallel stories in Scripture that enlighten, encourage and provide help and assurance of God’s love”. (quoted from handbook)

At one point Jesus was asked why Pilate killed innocent Galileans while they were worshipping at the altar and why eighteen in Jerusalem were crushed when the Tower of Siloam collapsed and fell on them.  Were they all sinners?

Jesus answered, “Not at all! But unless you turn to God, you will perish (ancient Greek definition: be lost, ruined, rendered useless).”  Bible scholars understand Jesus to be first discounting that tragedy is punishment for sin. Then he counsels his listeners not find themselves lost, ruined, or rendered useless by fixating on the horrific, but to go forward by turning/changing one’s mental direction to God, good.  And today the United States Navy is pointing the way.  Wonderful, isn’t it?

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