While June may be Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness month, IU Health makes it a yearlong focus working with patients who struggle with PTSD daily. It’s important to bring awareness to PTSD as many people suffer from this very treatable condition and don’t seek help due to the stigma surrounding mental health conditions.
It’s important to know how to be supportive to someone who is experiencing PTSD. Listening is probably the best thing we can do as well as encouraging them to seek help. It can be difficult for families to understand their experiences as people with PTSD are often met with silence and misunderstanding.
If someone confides in you about their PTSD, acknowledge and validate their experience, give your support and listen.
Help someone with PTSD by letting them know it’s not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength to get help. For family members especially, it’s important to be Compassionate, non-judgmental, and validate their experience and their feelings.
If your family member or friend is scared to get help, offer to go with them to get started. It is not uncommon for a support person to join for initial treatment. Assist them in researching various treatment options and making decisions regarding which is best for them.
What to do When Someone with PTSD Pushes You Away
When we see someone we care about struggling, it’s natural for us to want to help. However, sometimes that help isn’t always welcomed by the other person.
If a loved one is showing signs of avoidance or pushes you away, it’s important to give them time. While it’s hard to see them experiencing this, it’s important to be patient and be there for them in ways that can help them continue everyday activities. Asking if there’s anything you can do to help, such as going to the grocery or cooking a meal for them may be the best thing you can do for them in that moment.
It’s also important to remember that it will often be their choice on when and where they seek treatment. Forcing this on someone can lead to resentment and distrust. It may even spark an argument that could leave you both hurt in the end. Gently encouraging them to continue going to therapy once they have started care is important. Acknowledge or celebrate the achievements they make.
Don’t pressure them to talk about their experience or what they discussed in their therapy sessions. It’s their choice regarding if, when or what they will share with you. Let them know you are there for them if they want to talk and even if they don’t.
Children and adolescents that experience a traumatic event may act out or experience physical symptoms such as stomach aches or headaches, or struggle in school. A parent or caregiver response can often influence a child’s response to the traumatic event. It’s important to give children a peaceful and supportive environment and lessen any stressors. Children need to know that they are loved and safe. Attempting to make a child talk before they are ready isn’t helpful. Consult a licensed mental health provider for help if your child’s symptoms persist longer than a month.
The National Center for PTSD has information and videos to help you understand the treatment options available and help you choose the treatment that’s right for you or a family member.
If you or a loved one is in a crisis, there are resources available to help:
- Veterans Crisis Line 800.273.8255 (press 1)
- National Sexual Assault Hotline 800.656.HOPE (4673)
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline 800.950.NAMI (6264)
- National Institute of Mental Health: Coping With Traumatic Events
- National Institute of Mental Health: Child and Adolescent Mental Health
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Caring for Children in a Disaster
- National Child Traumatic Stress Network