DES MOINES, Iowa — As the battle over masks continues to rise, so too have the calls for help in overcoming the trauma masks can trigger. “We have heard from a number of trauma survivors that masking is adding an extra layer of anxiety,” said Tiffany Allison with the non profit Soaring Hearts Foundation. The group advocates for victims of violent crimes and says that for some victims masks are making them relive horrific experiences of their assault. “They’ve had obstruction of their airway, they’ve been choked, they may have had hands placed over their mouth if they were trying to scream,” said Allison.
Tuesday night as Ames city council members approved a city-wide mask mandate Jennifer Hill explained just that. “When I was nineteen I was raped and part of that was my mouth being covered for a long time. Every time I put a mask on I almost relive it. It is very traumatic for me,” explained Hill during public comment.
The post traumatic stress that can be daunting for these victims. “It can be absolutely debilitating to the point where someone could not function if they are triggered to that degree,” Allison said.
Mask mandates in Des Moines and Ames exempt people with medical conditions that cause breathing issues like asthma and COPD and Allison says they try to direct people with PTSD from a violent crime towards the help they need. “Referring them back to therapy. If they are not in therapy, encouraging them to work with a therapist and also working with their physicians to see if they are medically exempt,” said Allison
Hill says mask shaming of those seen without a face covering has been prevalent and the assumptions are that she just doesn’t care. Hill said, “When I hear people saying it is so selfish of people who don’t want to wear them, do we know every foot print someone has walked in?”
A journey that hopes for understanding in the middle of uncertainty. “We just need to be responsible for ourselves and take as many precautions as we can individually,” said Allison.
Licensed clinicians are also offering psychotherapy and breathing techniques to help victims with PTSD from a violent attack get through their fears of wearing a mask.