Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health problem that can affect anybody who has witnessed or experienced a traumatic event, whether it’s a sexual assault, a car wreck, a natural disaster or even combat.
“For years, I didn’t know what was going on,” said Flint native Gene Bowen.
He served as a Marine in Vietnam when he was 19.
“I was shooting at people, and people was shooting at me. I was seeing things that I mean was shocking. I had never seen a person bleeding. I had never seen dead people. I had never shot at anyone and actually hit them,” said Bowen, now 71-years-old.
When he returned to the U.S., he went to college and kept busy working as a DJ, a club manager and eventually a social worker.
Twenty-five years after Vietnam, he was counseling other veterans at the VA in Battle Creek when it hit him.
“Wait a minute. Something is wrong here. You know? You’re listening to a person talk about the events in their life, and your life is the same way,” he said recalling that moment.
He had trouble with sleep, drugs, alcohol, maintaining relationships and controlling his temper. He ended up going to therapy and eventually being hospitalized.
He was suicidal.
One of Bowen’s friends and colleagues, Juanita Hinton, is a clinical social worker and psychotherapist in Allen Park who counsels people with PTSD.
“It’s not curable, but you can control the symptoms,” said Hinton.
She says many veterans suffer from PTSD, but anyone who has seen or experienced a traumatic event can be affected.
She was at Fort Hood when the mass shooting happened in 2009, and she counseled survivors.
“Avoidance, withdrawal, hyper-vigilance, anger, depression, lack of sleep, lack of interest in activities that they used to enjoy, isolation,” she said listing off the symptoms.
Many people who suffer from PTSD have nightmares or think about the traumatic event.
Loud noises like fireworks can also be a trigger, especially for veterans.
Gene Bowen started healing when he started talking about it.
“What really I think saved me more than anything is family support – support from families -- someone that listened to me,” Bowen explained.
Bowen’s wife, friends, family, and his therapy all helped him learn to cope.
According to the National Center for PTSD, about 8 million adults have PTSD during a given year and 7 to 8 percent of the population will have it at some point in their lives.
If you think you or someone you know is suffering, contact your doctor or mental health provider.
You can reach Juanita Hinton at (734) 530-4371.
Of course, if you’re in crisis, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.
You are not alone.