PTSD and Avalanches

Greg Obernesser | | Industry NewsIndustry News
Skier triggered avalanche. Credit: High Country News

Avalanches not only cause physical trauma, but also mental. In a recent article by The Guardian, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is becoming evident in avalanche survivors. As more data becomes available, avalanche survivors are starting to display symptoms of anxiety, depression, and even shame; they consequently feel guilty about the event.

Better stated by Jennifer Feibig, a therapist out of Bozeman, Montana;

“There’s a culture of analyzing all the data after an accident that takes all the humanity out of the survivors, who are already thinking ‘I killed my friend’ or going through other grief, and then descending into a shame spiral on top of that,” she said. “We need to know what happened, but we also need to make that space for the survivor to feel cared for, to feel validated that they did the best they could do, and recognize the pain that they just went through.” 

Backcountry kiers hiking out of bounds. Credit: Mountain Culture Group

The backcountry is only getting busier… While the exact numbers of people that recreate in the backcountry are hard to configure, the indicator of backcountry equipment sales has spiked tremendously according to Mountain Culture Group. Sheer probability would display that people who expose themselves to risk (especially on a more frequent basis) are more susceptible to being caught in an avalanche. Therefore, avalanche related PTSD could be a more frequent problem.


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