1. Educate Yourself on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Educating yourself on PTSD can help friends or family who struggle with the disorder feel less alone. Coming from a place of care and understanding may even help them seek out the care they need. PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that occurs in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. These events can include a natural disaster, serious accident, terrorist act, war/conflict, sexual violence, abuse, or severe injury. About eight million adults struggle with PTSD in a given year.
Symptoms of PTSD fall into four categories:
- Intrusion: Intrusion may include intrusive thoughts, involuntary memories, distressing dreams, or flashbacks. Flashbacks may be so vivid that people feel they are re-living the traumatic experience.
- Avoidance: A person may avoid reminders of the traumatic event, including people, places, activities, and objects that may trigger them. People may also try to avoid remembering or thinking about the traumatic event. They may refuse to talk about what happened or how they feel about it.
- Alterations in cognition and mood: A person may be unable to remember important aspects of the traumatic event. Negative thoughts and feelings may lead to distorted beliefs about oneself or others. They may experience persistent feelings of shame, guilt, fear, or anger. They may also have less interest in activities they previously enjoyed, feel detached from others, and cannot experience positive emotions.
- Alterations in arousal and reactivity: Arousal and reactive symptoms may include being irritable and having angry outbursts, behaving recklessly or in a self-destructive way, being overly watchful of one’s surroundings in a suspecting way, being easily startled, or having problems concentrating or sleeping.
2. Actively Work to Reduce Stigma
Stigma often stems from a lack of understanding or fear surrounding a specific mental health disorder and inaccurate or misleading media representations of mental illness contribute to both of these factors. While the public may be becoming more accepting of the medical or genetic nature of a mental health disorder and the need for treatment, many people still negatively view those with mental illnesses.
Stigma surrounding PTSD can contribute to worsening symptoms and reduced likelihood of getting treatment. Other effects of stigma may include:
- Reduced hope
- Lower self-esteem
- Difficulties with social relationships
- Difficulties at work
Having a mental health disorder is not a sign of weakness or a reason to feel ashamed. Mental health conditions are common and many factors that cause a psychological disorder are entirely out of a person’s control. Actively working to help reduce the stigma and discrimination people with PTSD face can help them feel accepted, loved, and encouraged to seek treatment for their disorder. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers suggestions about what we can do to help reduce the stigma of mental health disorders:
- Talk openly about mental health
- Educate yourself and others
- Be conscious of the language used
- Encourage equality between physical and mental health
- Show compassion for those with mental health disorders
- Normalize mental health treatment
- Choose empowerment over shame
3. Encourage Loved Ones to Seek Treatment
As a part of National PTSD Awareness Month, it is essential to help those who have PTSD find the resources they need to start the healing process. Trauma-focused psychotherapies are the most highly recommended type of treatment for PTSD. Trauma-focused means that the treatment focuses on the memory of the traumatic event or its significance. These treatments use different techniques to help people with PTSD process their traumatic experiences. The trauma-focused therapies with the most substantial evidence include:
- Prolonged Exposure (PE): PE teaches individuals to gain control by facing their negative feelings. It involves talking about trauma with a mental health provider and engaging in activities avoided since the trauma occurred.
- Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT): CPT teaches individuals to reframe negative thoughts about the trauma. This therapy involves talking about negative feelings with a mental health provider and doing short writing assignments.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): EMDR helps individuals process and make sense of their trauma. The therapy involves calling the trauma to the mind while paying attention to a back-and-forth movement or sound.
You can help a loved one struggling with PTSD research treatment options and making the best, informed decision. Encourage your loved ones and let them know they no longer have to suffer from their trauma. However, it is essential to remember that the decision to seek treatment will ultimately be up to the individual. For more information on PTSD and treatment, there are resources available such as:
- VA National Center for PTSD
- National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
June is National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Month. To help bring awareness to PTSD and help those struggling, you can work to educate yourself about PTSD, actively reduce stigma, and help your loved ones find treatment. By doing so, you can help those around you feel less alone and supported through their journey with PTSD. If you or a loved one are struggling with PTSD, Hired Power is here to help. Often times having a professional accompany a client to a mental health treatment center and help manage the rigorous travel details can be the determining factor in getting treatment. An experienced professional can provide the necessary emotional support and guidance during this difficult time. At Hired Power, our Safe Passage Transports can reduce the stress and anxiety of this experience and ensure that clients entering mental health treatment arrive safely and without incident. For more information on our services, call us today at 800.910.9299.