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What is post-traumatic stress disorder? Konan tells of struggles in documentary

Konan (right) underwent PTSD therapy to cope with the aftermath of a gun attack on his family  (Alex Lentati)
Konan (right) underwent PTSD therapy to cope with the aftermath of a gun attack on his family (Alex Lentati)

At least 300,000 young people in England and Wales suffer from PTSD, according to a documentary featuring Konan, which also says early intervention could save £2.4 billion of public money.

Trapped in Trauma, in the Untold strand, suggests that most cases are linked to personal assault and violence. The documentary, which is streamable on Channel 4, follows the rapper Konan as he receives his first PTSD treatment. More than 10 years ago, after gang members looking for him stormed into his home and shot his mother and killed his stepfather, he first started experiencing symptoms including flashbacks, anxiety, paranoia, anger and intense emotions of guilt.

Since appearing on the show, he has kept up his therapy, and he is astounded by its effects. He has been able to pinpoint the life experiences that have influenced his behavioural responses, how to put those responses into perspective, and what his triggers are through treatment.

“The therapy has made me open doors that I’ve had closed for a while. It’s made me more emotional – I’ve been taking in things and feeling a lot more.

“During this whole period, I learned to shut everything out and it made me a bit numb. I wasn’t feeling happy about things I was achieving, but when I sat in therapy sessions [the therapist] told me that because I shut off sadness, I couldn’t take in happiness,” he said.

Since few people are aware of the symptoms and PTSD is challenging to diagnose, 70 per cent of cases go untreated. According to a study of studies by King's College London and statistics from the Office for National Statistics by Channel 4, the NHS could save £2.4 billion in taxpayer funds if it provided more early intervention therapy.

Previously, the Mayor of London has said he is affected by PTSD after dealing with regular death threats, disasters and terror attacks.

Sadiq Khan told the Guardian that, while he is not going through the same level of trauma as refugees or those involved in war, he is affected by mental trauma.

When asked if he suffered from PTSD, Mr Khan said: “Without a doubt. One of my best friends is a doctor and we talk about it. I think the phrase is cumulative. By the way, I’m not comparing what I am going through to some of the stuff people go through – as a lawyer, my clients with PTSD were asylum seekers and refugees. I would never give equivalence to what I am going through nor would I ever want people to feel sorry for me.”

Around four out of every 100 people in the UK have suffered from PTSD, according to UK mental health charity Mind.

Meanwhile, the NHS says that the condition affects one in every three people who have a traumatic experience.

Trauma can vary greatly, ranging from physical injuries to mental or emotional abuse. Soldiers who have experienced conflict can experience PTSD after returning from battle, for example.

Find out below what PTSD and its symptoms are and how it’s treated.

What is post-traumatic stress disorder?

Post-traumatic stress disorder can occur immediately after a traumatic incident or can present itself in the weeks, months or even years afterwards. It is not clear why some people experience PTSD and others don’t.

Some people who experience repeated trauma may develop complex PTSD, which causes similar symptoms.

If you or someone you know is still experiencing issues relating to trauma more than four weeks after it occurred, you should speak to your GP.

It’s natural to feel upset or scared after an incident, but strong symptoms after a month could be a sign you need more support.

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

Someone with PTSD will often relive a traumatic event and experience feelings of isolation, anger and guilt.

According to the NHS, symptoms of PTSD include:

  • flashbacks

  • nightmares

  • repetitive and distressing images or sensations

  • physical sensations, such as pain, sweating, feeling sick or trembling

People with PTSD often have issues with insomnia and concentration, finding it difficult to pay attention. These symptoms are often severe enough to have a significant impact on the person's day-to-day life.

If you think you or someone you know may have PTSD, the first step is to speak to your GP about your concerns.

How is PTSD treated?

PTSD can be treated, and the treatment depends on how severe the symptoms are and when they appeared following the traumatic event.

Treatment can include monitoring your symptoms, taking antidepressants, or undergoing psychological therapy, such as trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or eye-movement desensitisation and reprocessing.

You can refer yourself directly to a psychological therapies service or talk to your GP for more information if you believe you are suffering from PTSD.