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Not all injuries are visible: Don’t suffer in silence

I did my best, in a 12 minute time slot, to instil a sense of vulnerability in high school students this past week.

It was my third opportunity to participate in “A different kind of P.A.R.T.Y.”, the acronym short for Prevent Alcohol and Risk-Related Trauma in Youth (http://partyprogram.com/).

Bus loads of high school students are brought for a “shock and awe” experience that begins in the parking lot, standing around the mangled wreck of a vehicle and listening to first responders.

Back in the hospital, a real trauma team puts on a compelling show of trying to save an injured victim. It is not uncommon for student observers to faint.

Presentations in the Rehab ward, including exposure to various prostheses, help emphasize the long term consequences of serious crashes. And there is a tour of the morgue.

But car crashes of a scale that require prostheses and send victims to the morgue are few and far between. Much less dramatic collisions can result in life long consequences. And those occur on a day to day basis in our communities.

My agenda was to instil a sense of vulnerability in these budding, new drivers that would extend to their regular, every day commute. Not just with the high risk behaviours that are the primary focus of the P.A.R.T.Y. program.

Why?  The higher your sense of vulnerability, the more care you will take behind the wheel. And the more demanding of careful driving you will be as a passenger.

I showed video footage of three regular, every day, collisions. The forces involved made them shocking to watch. I hope I achieved my goal, leading to a higher sense of care on our roadways.

If the shock of watching a collision can make you feel vulnerable, how might actually experiencing one make you feel?

A healthy sense of vulnerability can make our roads safer. An unhealthy level of anxiety can adversely impact a victim’s life, and can ironically make our roads more dangerous.

It’s commonly known as “Driving Anxiety”. More technically, a phobia, which I’ve seen defined as “an intense and irrational fear of a specified object or situation”.

I’ve known it to be so severe that counselling assistance is required to help with simply getting into a parked vehicle sitting in a victim’s driveway.

But most are able to get right back into their vehicles and resume their day to day commutes. To those around them they seem perfectly fine.

But many are not. They are burdened with anxiety every minute of their commute, with an increased sense of panic in particular driving situations.

Just like physical pain will lead to avoiding activities that aggravate that pain, driving anxiety can lead to taking much longer travel routes to avoid certain driving environments. And can lead to avoiding all but absolutely necessary driving outings.

The regular experience of anxiety is psychologically harmful, in itself. And the behaviour modification can lead to social isolation.

These are invisible impacts. And there is a stigma around reaching out for help with mental health issues. Victims struggle silently, pretending everything is ok, when it’s not.

Help is out there. But it’s expensive. Counselling sessions are approximately $120.00 (Registered Clinical Counsellor) and approximately $200.00 (Psychologist). ICBC will pay a portion of that expense up front ($100.00 and $145.00 respectively).

Just like with any other injury, it is important to pursue your recovery from psychological injuries. Please reach out to your doctor and follow whatever recommendations are given. Do you know someone who might be suffering in silence?  Please encourage them to reach out for help.

If you fail to do so, not only will you compromise your recovery but you will most surely face arguments by ICBC that your ongoing psychological difficulties are your own fault.

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