Q&A with Katrina Wolf, First Responder and Brain Health Advocate
As a resiliency officer in a jail, Katrina Wolf is closely attuned to the mental health issues of her fellow corrections officers. She is available to help them when they feel under stress, whether in their careers or in daily life.
Katrina found CVB online while researching PTSD. She liked what she read and reached out to us, hoping to be able to help us in our mission. We spoke with Katrina about her work as a resiliency officer, as well as about her own history with trauma and C-PTSD.
Please briefly describe your role as a resiliency officer.
As a corrections officer in a jail, I am responsible for the safety and security of the inmates and facility. As a resiliency officer, I am on a list of people my brothers and sisters can call for help with problems they face, not only in their careers but in life as well. What many people don’t realize is that as officers we face not only mental health problems but many other real-life traumas. Corrections officers have a much higher rate of suicide than the general public, or even police officers. There is a huge stigma in my profession, as well as in the military, that we are these elite humans whom nothing can touch and mental health problems should just be sucked up. When in reality, we are just as human as the next person. We go through trials and tribulations in our home lives on top of our stresses at work. The goal of the resiliency program is to help officers before they feel life has become too much to handle.
Have you had events in your life when someone reached out to you and you accepted the support? Do you think we need more organized (and better publicized) ways of offering support to people with PTSD?
I have been very fortunate to have had support multiple times in my life. Very recently, I went through a terrible divorce after a 14-year abusive marriage. As things piled on after leaving my ex-husband, just when I thought it would get better, I began to spiral downward. Then I reached out to a person I thought was a friend, whom I had helped through a dark time, and they weren’t there for me. It was then that I thought I had nowhere to turn. That same day my cousin reached out and asked me to come to a family BBQ. It felt like I had been in a room in complete darkness and a door had been opened. Having someone offer support to me was huge. It helped me start getting the help I needed.
I think it is so important that the community and organizations offer support for PTSD. I believe we could help so many people not only to get diagnosed but to learn to manage the disorder. Maybe one day we’ll find a way to truly treat it.
How do you think society could have better helped you at other times in your life when you were in the midst of trauma?
I believe that society could have helped me and many others by looking into how to diagnose and treat PTSD. With this knowledge, there could possibly have been a center, groups, or hotline to reach out to.
When were you diagnosed with PTSD, and how?
I was diagnosed with C-PTSD (complex PTSD) early this year, when I started therapy with a trauma therapist. It would have been amazing to have had some way to diagnose this. I would have known so much sooner and begun appropriate therapy. Having a way to diagnose PTSD could prevent so many people from suffering needlessly.
Were you offered treatment specifically for your PTSD?
I am taking medication that is helping with some of my C-PTSD symptoms. And my trauma therapist is helping me work through my anxiety and triggers.
How do you think medical support (including medication) and social support, such as therapy and support groups, can best work together to help people with PTSD?
If research could show how individuals respond to the treatments, therapy, and medication, individualized plans could be put in place. PTSD is complicated, and just like people, it is different for everyone. I think with research such as your organization is doing, treatments could be put together with just enough of each thing for the individual.
What are your future plans as an advocate for people with PTSD?
My dream is to have an organization like yours, but with treatment and support added to the research program, as well. I want to share my story, to show others they do not have to suffer in silence. In addition to showing society, medical professionals, and organizations how important this research is, I want my story to pave the way for others not to have to suffer a lifetime.