ORONO, Maine — Post traumatic stress disorder is a survival mechanism and veterans need to know it’s “totally understandable,” according to a Department of Veterans Affairs psychologist who specializes in combat trauma.
Dr. Johnathan Shay is visiting Maine this week to talk to veterans about reintegration after combat. He is the keynote speaker at the Fifth Annual Conference of the Maine Military & Community Network to be held all day Wednesday at the University of Maine.
“PTSD is not a bad description…[for] the very valid adaptations that occur when people were trying to take your life,” Shay said during a recent telephone interview. “When those leak into life — that is PTSD. It’s not a fear syndrome … it’s a danger adaptation.”
Shay will speak twice during the annual statewide conference, which runs from 8 a.m.-7 p.m. at Wells Commons at the University of Maine. The theme for the daylong event is “Building Resilience in Community.”
More than 200 people have already signed up to hear Shay speak, according to Maine Army National Guard Lt. Col. Darryl Lyon, a leader with the Maine Infantry Foundation. Lyon invited anyone interested to register for the free public event.
At 9 a.m., Shay will give a talk on “Psychology and Moral Injury in War” and his 6 p.m. keynote address is on “Combat Trauma and the Trials of Coming Home.”
On Tuesday, Shay will be in Portland speaking to members of the Maine State Bar Association and the Maine Judiciary about the bar association’s Veterans Committee and the Maine Veterans Court.
Shay is a nationally recognized psychologist and author of two books, “Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character,” and “Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming.”
Maine Military and Community Network is a community effort to understand, prevent, and help deal with the lingering aftereffects of war on service members, their families, and their communities, according to the group’s website.
The focus of the conference will be on the role communities play in helping veterans successfully reintegrate into their communities after military service.
Dr. Richard Lumb will also be at the conference to give a presentation about ways to remain resilient after facing trauma. The session will be targeted for veterans, firefighters, emergency medical staff, law enforcement and members of the community at large who have faced trauma in the past.
Pentagon Commander Brent Embry will present models for forging enduring alliances between the military and community.
Shay’s visit to Maine is sponsored by the Maine Military & Community Network, Maine Infantry Foundation, Acadia Hospital, the University of Maine Humanities Center, the Bangor Daily News, and the law firms of Verrill & Dana in Portland, and Vafiades, Brountas & Kominsky in Bangor.
To register for Wednesday’s conference, go to cvent.com/d/vrqjyz. For information, contact Nathaniel Grace at Nathaniel.firstname.lastname@example.org or 430-5651.