PTSD

Reach Out to Refugees with PTSD

refugee and child in a camp

Do you remember what it was like to cram for a test in high school or college? You made sure that everything you could possibly need to know was fresh in your mind so you would be ready to answer any question that might be thrown at you. Then, at some point after the test, all or most of that knowledge slowly faded from memory.

Don’t let that happen with what you’ve learned over the last 4 years about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Knowing how to walk alongside those with PTSD will come in handy as WMU shifts its focus for Project HELP to refugees beginning with the 2018–19 church year.

Embrace the Nations as Your Neighbors: Help Refugees Dream Again

woman grocery shopping

My favorite grocery store remodeled recently to my frustration. Imagine your first visit to an American grocery store after spending several years in a refugee camp. Add in a language barrier, and a task we take for granted can be overwhelming.

Refugees entering the United States come seeking housing, schools, jobs, and community. Displaced by violence and persecution, most refugees lost belongings and even family members to arrive in crowded camps with limited resources and then wait up to 10 years before resettling in a receiving country. Fear of the unknown often accompanies relocation to the US, increasing stress and often leading to anxiety disorders—including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—may surface within a few months of arrival in their new home. Refugees may have suffered a loss of self-esteem and the ability to dream, and many are living in survival mode.

Building Resilience within Preschoolers

Building resilience

Throughout this year, we have looked at ways we can help preschoolers build resilience. During their early years, we can give preschoolers the tools they need in order to bounce back when difficulties come into their lives. Resilience is built gradually as preschoolers learn about their emotions and how to get along with others. As we help preschoolers learn to cope with problems at an early age, we give them resources to help them cope with life’s difficulties when these come later in life.

Project HELP

Through an initiative called Project HELP, WMU identifies a social and moral issue and ties in national projects that help lead the church to address it.

Since the launch of Project HELP in 1994-1995, WMU has focused on a variety of universal problems over the years ranging from hunger and poverty to HIV/AIDS and racial injustice. With each issue, we seek to raise the level of awareness and provide practical approaches anyone can implement to open the door for meeting needs and sharing the gospel.


2014 - 2018
Project HELP: PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can affect anyone—veterans, first responders, victims of violence, natural disaster survivors, and others. 

One of the most healing resources for someone who suffers from PTSD is community, and being in community is one of the core functions of the body of Christ. Discover how you and your church can walk alongside them.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a diagnosable mental disorder as classified by the DSM-V.  Some key facts about PTSD include the following:

Helping Children Face Fears

Storms, darkness, snakes, and spiders are common childhood fears. Other kids may be afraid of starting a new school, failing a class, or losing a friend. A few children may face heartrending fears such as a serious medical diagnosis for themselves or a family member, the possibility of a parent being deployed, or parents getting a divorce. Whether real or imaginary, insignificant or life changing, it is important for leaders to take the fears of kids seriously. Here are four ways leaders can provide stability and truth for children in the midst of scary and uncertain situations.

Thank you for Listening!

I am a Vietnam War veteran, U. S. Women’s Army Corps, stationed in Augsburg, Germany during my tenure. Over the years I have met veterans who were dealing with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). However, PTSD is not confined to those coming home from military service. It affects people from all walks of life who are dealing with traumatic situations. The good news is we’ve come a long way in being able to recognize this disorder and offer support. You and I may not be trained counselors, but we do have the same credentials—ears to listen.

Listen with your body language. Sometimes it is not about the talk, simply be willing to be there. Listen with your facial expressions. This means good eye contact, a smile, not sighing or rolling your eyes when the individual is sharing the same scenario or event repeatedly. Listen with your heart. Be patient, don’t push them to talk, be respectful and non-judgmental. Listen without expectations and remember you are not there to tell them what do or how to move on.

“Thank you for listening to my story,” may be the compliment which opens the door for you to share His story.

 

Ministering to Military Families

Project HELP logo

You may be near a military base with many military personnel, have one military family in your church, or have a family with a member in the National Guard or Reserves. As a preschool leader in the church, this is an opportunity for you to serve these families in a special way. As they entrust their preschooler to you while at church, this may open doors for you to reach out to military families. There are also opportunities to minister to military families outside the church.

 

Each military family has its own strengths and needs. Use these ideas as possibilities for ministry to the needs of military families. Realize that these are ideas for ministry to any military family, not just to those with a family member who has PTSD. Following are ways to give care and support to all military families.

  • Commit to pray daily for the families. Send a note or message to let them know, so they can draw strength from knowing of your prayers.

  • For multiple families, set up a prayer plan among preschool teachers at church.

  • Listen with a heart of compassion.

The Art of Suffering

Suffering—is it a topic any of us are really comfortable with? I personally don’t like to think about it.

Jesus talked a lot about suffering and in Philippians 3:10, I am reminded “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and may share His sufferings” (ESV). Really? Participate in suffering? Yet in this verse, suffering speaks to me as an avenue to know Christ better and refine me to be more like Him.

We all experience suffering in varying degrees at one time or another. David Crosby reminds us in his book Your Pain Is Changing You that we can choose how we respond to it. 

On a personal level, my most challenging experience with pain and suffering was my diagnosis and battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It took 6 months to diagnose and a lot of physical pain was experienced. Through God’s grace, I am now in remission.  However, the spiritual battle to stay focused on Christ and relinquish my will to His during the adversity was equally challenging.

Networking Works

“My nephew has threatened suicide several times since returning from Afghanistan,” she said. “He seems so close to doing it. We’re constantly worried about him.” A total stranger from another town was telling me this when we were both getting our nails done. “I just wish I knew how to get him some help.”

Thanks to a group of churches (pastors and members), along with other interested community organizations in her town, I could direct her to a local pastor who was passionate about helping soldiers coming home with PTSD and suicide ideation. All over Arkansas communities and churches are coming together to be ready when the need arises.

In our state the local VA assists in forming these groups, but realistically, they can form without VA assistance. Representatives from churches, directors of non-profits, members of law enforcement, local business owners, and other interested parties meet monthly and discuss issues affecting returning veterans. They gather resources and put together guides to those resources.

Project HELP: PTSD Helping Families with Financial Stress

Financial difficulties

Though the song says it’s the most wonderful time of the year, for many families the Christmas season is the most stressful time of the year. This can be a particularly difficult time for parents who are under financial stress, as they struggle to provide for their family. The pressures of providing Christmas gifts for their children is great.

Financial stress for families can be caused by the loss of a job, an ongoing illness or hospitalization, divorce, or the death of a family member. Some families are in financial stress because of spending practices, credit card debt, or lack of budgeting. Be prepared to minister to families who are under financial stress.

  • Be sensitive to the needs of families who may be in situations of financial stress. Keep information confidential.

  • Be aware that financial stress is not just about money. Emotional and social issues may also be involved, such as pride, self-confidence, or loss of purpose.

  • Listen to the parent so you can determine opportunities in which you can be of help.

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