Reentry into life and society after a traumatic experience, rehab, or prison can be a challenging time for the individual and for their families. Usually, there a number of obstacles that can get in the way of these individuals remaining mentally healthy, clean, and lawful citizens.
Continue reading to learn about some of the most difficult reentry scenarios, the specific challenges facing each type, and ways to help those individuals and their families.
Different Types of Traumatic Experiences
We’ve all had traumatic experiences and everyone handles those events differently. That’s why it’s important to understand that the same event may not affect one person, but may have a profound impact on another.
Other times it may only seem like someone is coping well, when really, they’re hurting more than they allow others to see. That doesn’t mean that one person is weaker than another, it just shows how different we all are.
Some of the types of traumatic experiences that we’ll address in this article, are:
- Life after the military
- Overcoming agoraphobia
- Life after rehab and remaining sober
- Reentry to life after prison
- Youth reentering school after suicide attempt
Those who have experienced any of these can face serious challenges in returning to everyday society and life. Therefore, understanding the signs of depression or other mental health issues is important, as well as understanding how to overcome them.
Did You Know?
Gulf War-era veterans now account for the largest share of all U.S. veterans, surpassing Vietnam-era veterans in 2016.
Life after Military Service
Serving time in the military can be a stressful time for servicemembers and their families. Just as difficult is transitioning from a military life full of structure, purpose, and clearly defined roles to a civilian life presents that may lack many of those characteristics.
For instance, one of the first obstacles is trying to reconnect with and re-establishing a role with their family. While this may seem like it should come naturally, a Veteran’s family has developed their own routines and structure while the Veteran was away.
Upon return, both the family and the Veteran will have to adapt and learn a new routine, which can add more stress to a difficult time.
Challenges Facing Returning Veterans
Some of the other challenges facing veterans returning from a tour of duty or leaving the military include:
- Translating military skills and experience into finding a new career
- Fitting into civilian communities
- Creating structure and new routines
- Adjusting to a different pace of life and work
- Possible financial hardships
PTSD and Veterans
Between 11% and 20% of Veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom have PTSD in a given year. Roughly 12% of Gulf War Veterans suffer from PTSD in a given year and an estimated 30% of Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime.
How to Overcome Agoraphobia
People who suffer from agoraphobia avoid certain situations and places that may cause them to panic or feel trapped. In some cases, this can lead to people remaining housebound and never leaving because of their fear of the outside world.
Many people who suffer from agoraphobia create safe zones, or places and activities where they feel as though they won’t experience panic attacks. However, this may lead to a false sense of security and more panic attacks if the person finds themselves outside of one of these safe zones.
What Is Agoraphobia?
Literally, agoraphobia means extreme or irrational fear of crowded spaces or enclosed public places. However, those who suffer from agoraphobia don’t find it irrational because events, places, or other triggers have cause them to have recurrent, and usually unexpected, panic attacks.
As a result, people who suffer from agoraphobia avoid the places, people, and events that may lead to the chest tightness, fear, and panic. This can lead people to completely alter their lives and truly effect the lives of their friends and family as well.
Symptoms of Agoraphobia
While every case is different, some of the most common symptoms of agoraphobia include the fear of:
- Leaving home alone
- Crowds or waiting in line
- Enclosed spaces, such as movie theaters or small stores
- Open spaces, such as parking lots or bridges
- Using public transportation
Being put in these situations may lead to a panic attack, which is a type of anxiety disorder where you experience sudden attacks of extreme fear that peak within a few minutes and trigger intense physical symptoms.
Did You Know?
An estimated 1.3% of U.S. adults experience agoraphobia at some time in their lives.
Life After Rehab
Deciding to go to rehab or, in some unfortunate cases, being forced to go, is a difficult process and usually means that one’s life and addiction has spiraled out of control. Often, there was one event or a string of events that continued to become more and more severe that led to that point.
However, going to rehab is an important step to changing one’s life and becoming clean. But those returning from rehab face a number of challenges to remaining sober.
Learning these challenges and how to overcome them is an important step in remaining clean.
Challenges of Remaining Sober
Many of the challenges of remaining sober and returning to life after rehab stem from the triggers that led to drinking alcohol or drug use. These triggers can be anything, such as walking past the neighborhood bar on the way home from work or hanging out with old friends who use drugs.
Triggers can be anywhere, from at work, at home, and everywhere in between. Before leaving rehab, or immediately afterwards, it’s important to become aware of individual triggers and create a plan to either avoid those triggers or steps to overcome them.
It’s also important to remember that relapse is part of the process, which is why many rehab facilities help you to recognize the signs of relapse and offer ways to overcome these challenges.
Did You Know?
In 2009, roughly 23.5 million persons aged 12 or older, or 9.3% persons in the United States, needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol abuse problem.
Reentry After Prison
Reentering society after a prison sentence is one of the most challenging things to do and there are many theories as to why. Some believe that there isn’t enough support offered to prisoners and to those just released, such as counseling, education, and help with substance abuse problems.
Others say that it is more difficult for ex-prisoners to find gainful employment, secure consistent housing, and generally function and contribute to society. And still other theories say that there are many prisoners who committed a small crime and go to prison only to learn how to commit larger crimes from more seasoned criminals.
In reality, it is probably a combination of all of these factors. Either way, it’s important for prisoners, their families, and social workers to understand the unique challenges faced by ex-prisoners and how to help them avoid the likelihood that they will return to prison.
Did You Know?
Though the data is tough to track, the United States accounts for roughly 4.4% of the world’s population and about 22% of the global prison population, as of 2014 and 2011 respectively.
What Is Recidivism?
The Congressional Research Service defines recidivism as “the re-arrest, reconviction, or re-incarceration of an ex-offender within a given time frame.”
According to the National Institute of Justice, 67.8% of released prisoners were rearrested within three years. That number grows to 76.6% after five years.
With such high rates of recidivism, some states are trying a different approach by offering varying reentry services, such as anger management and job training. In eight states that offered these programs and tracked the statistics from 2010 to 2013, rates of recidivism dropped between 6% and 19% three years after incarceration.
Reentry into Life: Elements of Succesful Programs
Reentering society after the military, agoraphobia, substance abuse, prison, or any other disorder or event can be a stressful and challenging time, both for the individual and their families and friends.
However, there are ways that can help ease this transition, such as:
Finding a community
Talking about your experience and finding social support is one of the best ways to overcome these psychological issues and the unique challenges of reentry. However, discussing them with family or friends may seem unhelpful because they may not have experienced the same trauma as you.
Therefore, it’s important to find a community or support group of people who have had similar experiences and issues so that you can share your challenges.
Similar to building a community, counseling serves the same purpose of being able to talk through your experience. In certain circumstances, such as PTSD, repeatedly talking about your trauma can actually change the way your brain thinks about the event and make the memories no longer upsetting.
Medications can also be effective treatment options. However, this may not be an option for those recovering from substance abuse issues because some may lead to addiction, which may lead to pursuing other types of drugs.
Regardless of the issue or trauma that you’re trying to overcome, make sure to discuss all medication possibilities, including the risk, side effects, and benefits with your doctor, counselor, psychologist, and family to make sure that it is the right option for you.
There are plenty of other ways to overcome traumatic experiences and reenter society. Often, these include some combination of talking about the event, learning about the symptoms and triggers, and continuing to put events or triggers in a different light.
Teenage Reentry After Attempted Suicide
With more than 42,000 suicides each year and as the 10th leading cause of death in America, unfortunately, suicide is a real risk in the United States.
This is a growing issue, especially with children and teens who confront a new set of circumstances and challenges, such as cyber bullying and the difficulties that face LGBTQ teens.
In fact, more than 30% of LGBTQ youth report attempting to end their life by suicide within the last year and more than 50% of youth who identified as transgender will have at least one suicide attempt by the time they are 20 years old.
Did You Know?
More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDs, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease COMBINED.
Unique Challenges Facing Reentry to School for Teens
Unfortunately, students who have made a suicide attempt are at increased risk to attempt to harm themselves again, which makes the handling of the reentry process to school an important step in prevention.
There are a number of issues during the reentry process, and all efforts should be made to make their return as comfortable as possible. This can include:
- Connecting the student with a tutor to review missed assignments and lessons
- Having a counselor and trusted teacher keep regular contact with the student
- Providing progress reports to the parents.
Many school districts have a plan in place to help these students reenter successfully. Therefore, check with your local school officials for additional information.
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