From post-traumatic stress to post-traumatic growth.

Helena Plater-Zyberk, CEO of Supportiv, shares how online, on-demand 24/7 access to a national peer-to-peer support network can assist the coping and healing process of millions.

Traumatic life experiences seem to be escalating in frequency, and our mental health system cannot support enough individuals to prevent post-traumatic consequences.

To combat this trend, health plans and employers can enable post-traumatic growth at population scale. An investment in post-traumatic growth may help secure the wellbeing of your members or your workforce in an increasingly uncertain and trauma-filled future. 

Helena Plater-Zyberk, CEO of Supportiv, shares how online, on-demand 24/7 access to a national peer-to-peer support network can assist the coping and healing process of millions.

Why health plans and employers need to think about post-traumatic growth

We are all going through traumas at an increasing frequency, collectively and individually:

All of these traumas decrease our population’s ability to work productively, attend to personal physical health, connect meaningfully with others, and function fully in daily life. Trauma impacts social determinants of health (SDOH), directly and indirectly, via mind-body health effects and behavioral consequences such as increased substance use

Because of its SDOH impact, trauma in all its forms is a major target for reducing costs, improving outcomes, and securing population health at large. Given the right resources, individuals can experience unprecedented growth in the face of trauma, rather than a worsening of mental and physical symptoms. That’s what post-traumatic growth is all about.

In many cases, trauma can be transmuted into growth, allowing people to reach improved levels of wellbeing, even compared to pre-trauma. Post-traumatic growth at its best can spur “self-discovery, integration of illness-related experiences and active self-management of well-being” that did not exist prior to one’s trauma. 

That’s not to say that trauma is a good thing! However, if we are armed with the right tools to respond effectively to traumatic experiences, we can avoid many of their worst-case outcomes. 

A conscious emphasis on post-traumatic growth is a worthwhile avenue for health plans and employers to boost SDOH and keep individuals healthy, engaged, and functional. 

Post-traumatic stress vs. Post-traumatic growth

Post-traumatic stress vs. Post-traumatic growth

Post-traumatic stress disorder is associated with

  • Depression
  • Panic
  • Anger
  • Reduced likelihood to exercise
  • Poor cardiovascular health
  • Poor gut health
  • Musculoskeletal pain
  • Substance use (tobacco, alcohol, and elicit)
  • Thryoid and other hormonal disorders
  • Poor immunity
  • Immune and auto-immune disorders
  • Accelerated aging (fun fact: according to VA researchers, this effect of trauma may be mediated by loneliness or a lack of support)

Post-traumatic growth, on the other hand, is associated with 

  • Understanding one’s physical and mental health needs better
  • Reduced learned helplessness
  • Self-advocacy
  • A changed perspective on illness, including increased self-management
  • Healthier relationships
  • Lower stress levels
  • Feelings of gratitude
  • And more…

How can health plans and employers provide the right resources to nurture growth after inevitable traumas?

Disclosure to others is an important part of processing trauma. Additionally, many of trauma’s negative effects stem from inadequate perceived support immediately after a destabilizing event

One of the biggest factors in whether someone develops long-term PTSD following a trauma (vs. growing through the trauma), may simply be: how supported they felt in the immediate aftermath of the event. 

Therefore, health plans and employers need to keep immediacy, human connection, and genuine empathy top-of-mind as they include innovative post-traumatic growth resources for covered populations and workforces.

Shortages and wait times fail to nurture post-traumatic growth

In order not to get stuck in trauma, in order to move toward post-traumatic growth, research clearly points to a major protective factor, post traumatic social support: “It is widely accepted that poor perceived social support is one of the most important risk factors for the onset and maintenance of PTSD symptoms (Brewin, Andrews, & Valentine, 2000; Ehlers & Clark, 2000; Holeva, Tarrier, & Wells, 2001; Ozer, Sr., Lipsey, & Weiss, 2003; Robinaugh et al., 2011).” 

Post traumatic social support can be defined as immediate, helpful attention after a traumatizing event. Unfortunately, traditional wellbeing benefits like therapy struggle to offer this on-demand experience of social connection following any of the daily occurrences one might find traumatizing.

People who experience trauma (all of us nowadays), are unlikely to receive immediate care and attention through traditional channels. According to reporting, “The National Council of Mental Wellbeing reports the average wait time to access behavioral health services is about six weeks. But if you're looking for a specialist in a certain area or with specific attributes, wait times can stretch into months.” That wait time is only relevant if you can afford behavioral health services, and if you aren’t part of a population segment disenfranchised from therapy (Center for American Progress). 

We have a compound problem, here. Traditional care pathways cannot accommodate most care-seekers within the timeframe necessary to avoid post-traumatic symptoms. And, many who experience trauma avoid traditional care pathways to begin with.

Existing solutions, like therapy, that offer individually-tailored support, require a high investment of manpower, funds, organization, and scheduling per individual helped. These solutions clearly work, but they require clinical manpower and other resources that continue to dwindle as population needs increase. (See the flood of articles on America’s provider shortage).

So, I invite decision-makers in health to consider the opinions of the Chief Medical Officers of NAMI and the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention. Christine Moutier, M.D. and Ken Duckworth, M.D. recently pointed to an oft-overlooked approach to population mental health care shortages, offering immediate attention in the face of traumas big and small: peer support. 

On-demand, precision-matched peer support flips the script on wait times and the mental health provider shortage

The mental health provider shortage hampers our ability to heal through successive traumas, as individuals and as a nation. Peer support is a care modality that can fill the provider gap due to its broad community appeal, even among those less likely to pursue traditional mental health care –namely vulnerable populations, men, and all ranges of the age spectrum. 

We, at Supportiv, are flipping the script on the post-traumatic growth barriers associated with traditional care modalities. Supportiv is enabling post-traumatic growth at scale, by harnessing the care-providing power of individuals who are, themselves, seeking care. 

The Supportiv approach is not just trying to help yourself, but also helping other people in the process. In this manner, we see exponential returns on each individual’s self-help efforts, and support population mental (and thus physical) health at scale, regardless of the provider shortage. 

To many, peer support is more conceptually accessible than therapy due to its less paternalistic approach toward traditionally disenfranchised population segments. Additionally, online peer support is more tangibly accessible to many, given its low price point, anonymity and literal 24/7, on-demand availability. 

A service like Supportiv provides the immediate, anonymous, non-intimidating, compassionate attention to put someone on a path to post-traumatic growth after a trauma–which even tele-therapy solutions simply cannot provide.

Investing in on-demand peer support with Supportiv

To learn more about collective trauma recovery, post-traumatic growth, addressing the mental health needs of disenfranchised populations, and innovative digital health workforce solutions, watch Supportiv’s CEO & Co-Founder discuss this on Vimeo, here.

Or, contact Supportiv at for more information on implementing digital peer support for your health plan members or employees.