Health care and spirituality have long been linked and involved with each other. This involvement and linkage goes far beyond the stereotypical "faith healers" that have become the butt of many jokes. Indeed, faith is used by many to get through struggles and challenges of many kinds. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is no different in this regard. While medication and therapy are the more commonly cited ways to address and treat PTSD, faith-based options are also quite common. These spiritual methods are easy to apply in the patient care sphere given that many hospitals are religiously based and/or are willing to tailor a patient's emotional and mental care based on their specific faith. While there can be some pushback when religious and spiritual values are suggested as part of a care program, the use of these values can absolutely be beneficial to a person's mental well-being and some would say the same for physical needs.
This paper's topic represents the coalescence of two major yet somewhat controversial parts of life. On one side, one has the disorder that has come to be known as PTSD. Prior, it has been referred to as shell shock, operational exhaustion and even battle fatigue. However, all three of those would seem to indicate that PTSD can only be caused by traumatic experiences in battle and that is absolutely not the case as abused children and other non-military adults are verifiably diagnosed with PTSD all the time (Schiraldi, 2009). On the other hand, one has the subject of spirituality and religion. This topic is angering and controversial to some as they believe that there is no omnipotent being and others believe there is no way to know for sure. Even so, many others use spiritual and religious feelings and tenets to help them persevere through challenges like poverty, loss of a loved on to death and other life challenges. Mental health is certainly among those as are pretty much all over health maladies as well. However, this report will focus specifically on PTSD.
As was started to be said in the preceding paragraph, spirituality holds a major place in the hearts and minds of the people that adhere to it. Indeed, Currier (2014) notes that spirituality is "a multi-faceted construct that often provides a powerful meaning framework for negotiating the reality and consequences of trauma. Currier goes on to suggest that, as with most things, spirituality can both hinder and help recovery from and treatment of mental illness as it can act as either an impediment or a "buffer" against mental illness and its associated challenges. Further, experiencing a traumatic event can actually lead to a loss in faith and this includes war veterans and non-veterans alike. Anywhere from ten to fifteen percent of PTSD sufferers experience a loss of faith after a negative or traumatic event (Currier et al., 2014).
A study that wanted to look at the linkage between spirituality and its effects on PTSD symptom presence and severity looked how whether a mantra, another way of saying a sacred word of phrase, helped or hindered people with war-caused PTSD. The research reflects that the amount and severity of symptoms actually decreased when the patient engaged in a habitual recitation of a mantra. They note that there is a correlation, if not a causality, between an increase in existential spiritual well-being and the reduction of PTSD symptoms and this is what the mantra was seen as causing and assisting. However, defining spirituality in general terms can be difficult because it would manifest and be defined differently from person to person including PTSD sufferers and clinicians. Regardless, the news is encouraging and shows that an increase amount of spiritual well-being can have a positive effect on mental health disorders and challenges as it is seen as a way to assist in coping and acclimating to a post-trauma environment (Bormann et al., 2012).
A different study looked a wider array of topics. Langman and Chung (2013) looked at the relationship between spirituality and PTSD but also looped in forgiveness, traumatic guilt. They only looked at people with addictions rather than the entire pool of PTSD sufferers. A regression analysis reflected that spirituality showed a correlation with psychological co-morbidity while PTSD showed the same thing but also with aggravated PTSD symptoms. Further, they found that people that were able to forgive themselves did not see any long-term benefits as a result as compared to people that could not bring themselves to forgive their own actions (Langman & Chung, 2013). On a more positive note, a different study found that there is a strong link between spirituality and PTSD relief because the ability to better cope with struggle is strongly linked to spirituality and that is a key part to addressing and combating PTSD and the ravages it inflicts on the people that have it (Wortmann et al., 2011).
History has at times unfortunately made the need to address PTSD sufferers all that more pressing an issue. One perfect example was the time periods immediately following World War I and World War II. Although science and medicine have greatly advanced since then, much the same thing is happening now with people that are coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan after roughly a decade of war and other strife. However, not all effects of war and trauma are negative and this is something that has been looked over the last twenty to thirty years. Some PTSD patients get knocked into the mental doldrums and are unable to right themselves easily. However, others view the challenge as a way to increase their resilience and recovery. Known as post-traumatic growth (PTG), many people suffering from PTSD are able to get back on track much more quickly and such recovery is linked directly to positive well-being, better relationships with others, better perceptions of self and acceptance, among other things. They engage in less denial and are usually more religious in nature and thought. This stands in contrast to the more common tactics and reactions of PTSD patients including avoidance and inability to cope with trauma in general and this is especially true of event or situations that remind the patient of the original trauma or traumas that caused the PTSD to surface in the first place (Gerber et al., 2011).
For those that do wish to glom onto religion as a means to cope and persevere, clergy obviously play an intimate role in aiding the process along or even getting it started. For sure, some are offended or at least resistant to embracing the church or its people during times of struggle but others tend to embrace it. For those that prefer and desire the assistance of a minister or pastor, these clergy are more than willing to intercede and assist the patient. It is important for these clergy to be vigilant and ready to step in as five to eleven percent of all sufferers of trauma end up with some level of PTSD as a result. One important thing to keep in mind is that spirituality and religion often intersect but they are not the same thing. One can indeed be spiritual but that does not mean that they follow a certain faith or even that they believe in a God. They usually either intersect or neither is present. This is why hospitals, regardless of their basic religious affiliation (if any), should be careful to seek out what the patient wants and tailor their approach accordingly. For example, if a patient is Jewish, having a Baptist minister come to console the patient when a Rabbi is available would be potentially unwise. The patient may be indifferent in their time of struggle and need but religious values can be very strident and strong. If someone is atheist or agnostic, then the use of religion and spirituality should be nil (Sigmund, 2003; Currier, 2014). Unfortunately, this common and tolerant mindset sometimes does not stop some from asserting that PTSD-stricken veterans "need" to be fostered and ministered to. While it may seem like a divine directive, there are times and places where scripture and proselytizing should not be brought up or allowed to occur, respectively (Tick, 2013).
On another note, to suggest that the topic above only applies to more developed and wealthy countries would be a mistake. Even indigenous peoples can gain assistance and consolation from religion during times of crisis and/or mental health challenges so as to cope and assist in their own disorder rather than relying only on other means of assistance. Even less developed areas of China proves this in spades as that culture has a strong bond between the faith and spirituality frameworks of their culture and that of the families that live amongst it (Ren, 2012). Much the same thing was found in Eastern Europe with Croatian soldiers that were suffering from PTSD as well as suicidal thoughts and visions (Mihaljevic et al., 2011).