Million-dollar gift advances PTSD

A $1.25 million gift from a Wisconsin-based nonprofit will allow researchers at the UC College of Medicine to explore therapies used for posttraumatic stress disorder.

Thanks to the donation from PESI, one of the world’s largest providers of mental health continuing education, a three-year comparative study examining the effectiveness of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing to cognitive processing therapy began in January.

Kate Chard, PhD, UC professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience and director of PTSD programs at the Cincinnati Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, is leading the study involving civilians, first responders, veterans and those on active duty.

Kate Chard

“I’m incredibly grateful to PESI for allowing me to make an important and valuable contribution to the science,” Chard said. “People are looking for answers and want to trust that the therapy they are offered will work. This study offers a significant step forward in helping us understand how many viable treatment options there are for people suffering from stress responses.”

PTSD is a mental health condition triggered by trauma. According to Chard, 7% of civilians globally have PTSD, the fifth most common psychiatric disorder. Typically, 20% of individuals experiencing trauma will experience PTSD. These numbers are often higher for first responders and service members.

“Our mission is to connect knowledge with the needs of mental health clinicians,” said Mike Conner, executive director of PESI. “Effective and safe treatment of PTSD and trauma is essential to help ensure clinicians are equipped to handle a mental health crisis. Dr. Chard’s treatment approach, cognitive processing therapy, is proving to become one of the most effective methods to facilitate healing for so many who are suffering. We admire her commitment to research and her ability to communicate her work and make it accessible.”

Chard said EMDR has yet to be tested against other evidence-based treatments. For example, cognitive processing therapy and prolonged exposure work quickly, have significant results and last up to 10 years.

“This is an opportunity to see if EMDR is as effective as one of the leading evidence-based treatments and how well it works for veterans and first responders,” she said. 

“I’m thankful that PESI has given us the opportunity to apply research and innovation to benefit our global community, particularly those who have served our nation,” said UC President Neville G. Pinto. “This gift will allow us to advance treatments and assist those experiencing PTSD.”

“People can recover from PTSD,” said Chard. “There is misinformation out there that you will suffer forever. People have trauma, and most of us naturally recover. PTSD is interrupted recovery, but there is help.”