The inaugural FearLess National Conversation on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was held at the Sunshine Coast Events Centre in Caloundra (Qld) from Wednesday 21st to Friday 23rd August 2019.
The FearLess Conversation brought together people who have PTSD and those who live with and care for them. It also brought together members of many communities, including veterans and first responders, that provide support mechanisms for those living with PTSD. Important contributions were made by community support organisations, veterans and veteran support organisations, insurance companies as well as leading medical and other research scientists.
The FearLess Conversation grappled with the extent of the PTSD problem that faces Australia. Participants heard that approximately one-in-five Australians live with PTSD. In some communities, this figure can be as high as one-in-two people. There is also a high incidence of inter-generational PTSD in families that live with domestic violence.
Some of the conversationalists told emotionally-charged personal stories about their lives with PTSD – how they got it, how they live with it, and what they do to manage it. Others told stories about how they care for their parents, partners and children who have PTSD. Everyone who joined in this conversation learned how caring, strong and noble the Australian community is.
The FearLess Conversation also drew hope from remarkable new developments in medicine, neuroscience, psycho-therapy and pharmacology, including leading edge research being conducted at the Sunshine Coast Mind & Neuroscience - Thompson Institute.
The FearLess Conversation highlighted the need for an integrated, holistic approach to the diagnosis, management and treatment of PTSD that is inclusive of all Australians. It identified the importance of the role that people who do not have PTSD can also play in both reducing stigma across the broader community to the incidence of PTSD and in reaching out to PTSD sufferers and their families – building strong relationships that enhance resilience across the nation.
The FearLess Conversation participants identified the need for a “FearLess Network” as a medium for:
- informing and educating doctors, who must be kept up-to-date as a first line of attack;
- supporting the community through the future distribution of key information about PTSD, and
- delivering broad access to initiatives that may reduce its impact on Australian national life.
A continuing network conversation on the causes and treatments of PTSD will also assist in demystifying and destigmatising PTSD.
The FearLess Conversation identified six principal outcomes.
- To improve the capacity of people living with PTSD to manage their circumstances better, we need to accept that the community is the ultimate owner of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and its consequences. This is a truly powerful insight, because it gives the community control over the management of the consequences of a form of brain injury that affects so many Australians.
- To improve their ability to address individual and community needs, the many organisations and associations dealing with PTSD need to build a variety of networks to help coordinate service delivery, share lessons on what works (and what does not), and ensure that services are provided by those organisations and associations best equipped to do so.
- There is a pressing need for a national repository that provides wide access to materials and documents that assist individuals, families, communities and support groups to meet the challenges of PTSD and its consequences.
- There is also a pressing need for a single national voice that can advocate effectively for the many Australians suffering from and living with PTSD.
- To simplify the understanding of PTSD through education and engagement of the community, and to normalize and promote acceptance of people with PTSD, a single point of entry to an evidence-based and properly evaluated set of diagnostic and management tools should be provided.
- The community should build on and continue the national conversation by convening at regular intervals to review progress and identify new avenues for improved PTSD management.
Specifically, this FearLess Conversation identified four “to do” items as the foundation for the next phase of the FearLess Conversation.
- Build a common user website for all first responder organisations and other community service providers to network so that an integrated and best practice approach is supported in managing PTSD.
- Work with Phoenix Australia as the nation’s most experienced PTSD management agency in the creation of a body of information on what works best in the management of veterans’ PTSD.
- Begin the construction of a web-based database containing evidence-based and evaluated advisory documents that can assist individuals, families and communities to manage the effects of PTSD in peoples’ lives.
- Assist those who participated in the inaugural FearLess National Conversation to identify community needs and expectations and feed information back to FearLess so we can build an increasingly dynamic community engagement program.
At FearLess we will work in consultation with participant agencies and associations, as well as inaugural conversation participants, to implement these initiatives expeditiously.