Trauma response and PTSD awareness event set for April 9 at Penn State York

The Penn State York chapter of the Student Veterans of America are planning their first-ever, post-traumatic stress disorder awareness event.
Four men and a woman standing around the lion shrine statue.

The Penn State York chapter of the Student Veterans of America (SVA). Left to right: Lance Fishel (student veteran and SVA club president), Joe Royer (SVA co-adviser and lecturer in cybersecurity), Patrick Conboy (student veteran), John Murphy (student veteran and SVA club vice president). Front: Christina Lee (SVA co-adviser and veterans certifying official). Not pictured: Bryan England (student veteran). 

Credit: Jess Price

YORK, Pa. — Lance Fishel, president of the Student Veterans of America (SVA) York chapter, is organizing a workshop designed to educate the campus community about trauma response and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Students, faculty, and staff are invited to the Precision Custom Components (PCC) community room at noon on April 9 to learn about PTSD, healthy coping skills and support resources. 

The workshop will begin with an introduction from Sarah Bender, counselor at Penn State York, followed by a mindfulness activity led by Jenn Sutton, licensed yoga instructor. The event will conclude with rock painting and conversation. 

“We’ll be introducing trauma, understanding the stress response when trauma occurs, and how that can lead to things such as PTSD,” said Bender. “We want people to understand that it’s stress response — and that’s part of the human experience — to help build empathy. Then we’ll get into different ways to cope or be supportive.” 

Fishel proposed the idea for this event to the York campus SVA advisers and shared that PTSD is something that he faces as a result of his deployment in Afghanistan. 

“It comes and goes,” Fishel said. “When it comes, sometimes the effects can be lasting — for weeks or even months. I got triggered a few times over the past year, so I’ve been dealing with that. I know I can’t possibly be the only person that suffers with flashbacks and dealing with the affects that trauma has.” 

Fishel noted that recognizing trauma in other people isn’t always easy, and that while there are many resources available to people with PTSD, individuals aren’t always aware of those resources. He said he hopes that educating people about trauma response will empower them to seek treatment if they’re experiencing PTSD themselves, or to show empathy towards others who might be demonstrating symptoms.  

Bender said, “Learning the symptoms of PTSD can help people understand the experience and potentially connect themselves or others to resources. There will be informational cards about a quick screening tool for anyone who might be wondering if they’re experiencing PTSD. It’s an important and healthy thing to be able to have conversations about.” 

Fishel also noted that there can be misconceptions about PTSD. 

“When people hear the term PTSD, they think military, but that’s not necessarily always the case. There are people dealing with all sorts of traumatic experiences and probably going through the same things that I do,” said Fishel. 

The group hopes that hosting the trauma response workshop will help ease some of the stigma around PTSD and encourage more open conversations about mental health. 

Bender explained, “Being able to have that conversation and to have it be something that is okay to talk about — it’s not something that has to go unspoken, we can acknowledge that people experience this. All of us have mental health that ebbs and flows and goes through different things and it’s not gonna disappear. It’s important to not presume that you know everything that’s going on in everybody else’s lives. Meet people in such a way that you’re meeting them where they’re coming from. Being supportive and fostering a space where it’s okay for us all to just be human, I think is good.”

For more information about the York chapter of SVA, contact co-advisers Christina Lee at [email protected] or Joe Royer at [email protected].