When you have a friend or a relative with PTSD some parts of your life can be affected. It is a different journey for you and them, and I would even dare to say that they are equally hard.
Raising PTSD awareness helps your community, family, coworkers, friends, and even your city to understand this condition, helping the person with the disorder to feel understood, supported, and loved.
Do not underestimate the strength of a local support network, many people diagnosed with PTSD can’t have their families close enough to be there for them, but they build a strong support network of coworkers, neighbors, and other people with the disorder.
Why PTSD Happens?
Whether you are a person with PTSD, if you suspect you may have it, or if you are a relative of someone with the disorder, you must understand why PTSD happens so you can understand it as a whole, and therefore, you can either heal or help someone heal.
This disorder is a consequence of going through severe trauma. And this trauma can be a wide range of things: sexual abuse, wars, natural disasters, toxic work environments, domestic violence, child neglect, the sudden death of a relative/partner, traffic accidents, terrorist attacks, etc.
Not everyone who lives a traumatic event develops PTSD, it depends heavily on individual characteristics and personality traits. Still, almost 8 million Americans are affected by this disorder every year.
Fear makes us remember things very clearly, it’s a biological function designed to make us survive dangerous environments. And these memories often present themselves as flashbacks of whatever happened, it’s your body detecting internal or external alarm signals (called triggers) and telling your brain you are in danger.
Your brain doesn’t understand that you are safe, so it makes you feel constantly stressed and on the edge. There even comes a time where you are so tired of been alert that the emotional numbness takes over.
As a person with PTSD or a relative of one, it is important to understand that the PTSD crisis sometimes can’t be prevented since you can’t control the entire environment around the affected person, but you can learn techniques to deal with them.
Completely healing a trauma sometimes can be very difficult, but it can be managed and you can get back your life, job, and relationships. This is why PTSD awareness is important.
How Can I be Helpful to Someone with PTSD?
In my career, I have helped many people with PTSD, but I must also talk about how much help and love their friends and relatives offer.
PTSD is a condition that not only affects the one who has it but also affects their entire social, professional, and family life.
You see, PTSD symptoms are quite intrusive, and very hard to stop without the right techniques. Hence, episodes of rage, sadness, confusion, and extreme alertness can invade a person’s mind under the right triggers.
And as you can imagine, and perhaps already experienced, not every trigger can be identified with anticipation. Even if you could, trying not to crumble at a birthday party can unleash other negative feelings inside the person with the disorder, causing them to want to run away.
By building a community that has PTSD awareness, they could all understand what that person is going through at the time and offer the help they need or at least give them enough space to try and balance themselves instead of being stared at.
If you wish to help someone with PTSD, you can do the following:
- Try to identify possible symptoms. Check for behavioral changes, like starting to be late, not talking, preferring isolation, strange mood swings, taking fake sick leaves, etc.
- Do not be pushy. If you think there’s something to be talked about, casually let the person know you are there for them but don’t try to get the story out of them with a spoon.
- When they start talking, do not interrupt the flow or try to compare their experiences with yours. Simply listen, ask general questions, and don’t try to lecture them.
- Do not minimize their feelings. Perhaps you may think they are scared of something silly, but to them is a huge demon they have to fight 24/7.
- Avoid physical contact if not requested, sometimes a hug with good intentions can trigger other emotions.
- Inform yourself. Read PTSD blogs, testimonies, researches. The more you comprehend this disorder, the better you can understand what the person’s going through
- Encourage them to seek PTSD counseling. And by ‘encourage’ I do not mean command them. Simply mention the benefits and how important it is for you to get them the help they need, and let them be the ones who decide this.
Essentially, being aware of PTSD’s symptoms, consequences, and treatments allows you to recognize possible unspoken traumas, understand the damage around the person’s different networks, help them seek the help they need, and identify techniques and procedures to help them go through a crisis.
When Is PTSD Awareness Day?
As part of the many social initiatives in the United States, and to help those 8 million people who get diagnosed with this disorder annually, Jun 27th has been declared National PTSD awareness day.
They chose that date to honor Staff Sergeant Joe Biel, who after being part of two missions in Iraq took his life after his return in 2007. Jun 27th was his birthday, and in 2010 Senator Kent Conrad requested for this day in specific to be PTSD awareness day.
Much of what is done this day in many parts of the country is listening to people with or who have healed from PTSD. Among experts, relatives, and allies, this day is aimed to openly talk about this disorder and offer comfort, information, solutions, and hope to anyone who has to live with this condition.
Now, I would like to mention something that caught my attention a long time ago: PTSD is something usually related to veterans. And the fact the PTSD awareness day is a date chosen to honor a veteran; therefore it's comprehensible that others who didn’t go to the army but still developed PTSD from a different kind of trauma, constantly diminish their feelings, making it harder for them to find help.
As I mentioned a few lines before, trauma is not something exclusive for the military. It’s the result of a very distressing event that often supposed a life threat for the person involved.
In fact, trauma is such a strong thing that two people who lived the same stressful event can react differently from one another, some may not even have emotional scars at all.
That is one of the reasons you should be aware of your emotions, your trauma, independently of how insignificant you may think it is if compared with other people’s trauma, will have negative effects on your life, and you must begin to talk about it and recognize it to heal.
And if you are a relative of a PTSD patient, you mustn't diminish their feelings at all, even if you feel like he or she is exaggerating. This sounds easy, but it takes preparation, time, and sometimes even making the relative go through their journey as well.
What Can I Do to Promote PTSD Awareness?
Independently of your relationship with the disorder, there are many things you can do to help raise awareness and reach those who need help.
- Start a blog and write your experience, either as a trauma survivor or as a relative of one
- People need to feel empathy and to know they are not alone, and the internet has been doing a great job doing so
- Design informational posters and distribute them in your campus, neighborhood, or job
- Organize community events
- Defend people with PTSD when they need to. Do not let bullying, rejection, and stigma be part of their life. Take a stand if you can
- Consider donating to NGOs and PTSD treatment centers
- Share treatment resources
- Be open to listen
- Educate yourself on this condition
- Be conscious of your involvement, if you are a relative you may also need help coping with how this disorder also directly affects you. Learn to know when it’s too much and mark your limits
- Help fighting fake news and misleading comments on social media
There are many kinds of treatments for PTSD, most of them focus on understanding the trauma and helping the person cope with it by developing resources to calm down, accept it, grieve, and move on.
But the results are outstanding when they have social support. Your love, interest, and efforts promoting PTSD awareness mean so much for them!
Interesting Facts About PTSD You Need to Know
Since you are already interested in creating PTSD awareness, the more informed you are about this disorder the easier will be for you to help others.
Here I tell you 20 interesting facts and statistics about PTSD:
People with this disorder are not violent, don’t be scared, they are too
Trauma can also be expressed as chronic pain
Substance abuse is common among PTSD patients, they just want to numb the pain, they are not irresponsible
They can learn to handle triggers by identifying them and practicing relaxation techniques
Some people can’t handle therapies that expose them to the original trauma, but they can still handle it through mindfulness and self-awareness
But on the other hand, being scared of your trauma diminishes the chances of healing properly. Speak about it when you feel comfortable
PTSD is not a death sentence, indeed, some traumas can’t be forgotten, but the symptoms can diminish significantly, and getting your life back is possible
Symptoms usually appear three months after the traumatic event, but in some cases, they develop after a year
Women have twice the chance of developing PTSD than men. Possibly for socio-historic motives (women are more open-minded about mental health and the importance of communicating emotions), or perhaps because women more suffer sexual assaults than men
Sadly, the average lapse in time between the first appearance of symptoms and a PTSD diagnosis is twelve years
Despite being a different mental disorder, sometimes it gets misdiagnosed as bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, depression, and borderline disorder
PTSD can also develop the disorder mentioned in the previous sentence, they are not excluding
The appearance of symptoms after six months or longer than a year after the trauma is called “delayed onset PTSD”, it does affect negatively the treatment
A person who has gone through not one, but multiple traumas may develop “complex PTSD”, which is a much stronger condition. It is quite common among children exposed to difficult environments such as violent families, sexual abuse, wars, and school bullying
Meditation, enlightenment, and self-awareness are not a definite cure for PTSD, but neither are medications and other therapies. However, holistic approaches show outstanding results in their recovery
During a PTSD crisis, the person’s prefrontal cortex is heavily affected, hence, their decisions may seem erratic
Posttraumatic growth is a technique/concept that leads to positive change and helps to recover a love for life, building, and recovering relationships, personal growth, spiritual change, and see the joy of being loved again
Police officers, firefighters, nurses, and military personnel are careers with a higher risk of developing PTSD
Despite this, sexual assault survivors have the highest rates of PTSD development. They are on top of veterans and genocide survivors
The word ‘victim’ has to be erased off your vocabulary. When you decide to see yourself as a survivor instead of a victim, you are taking a huge step into recovery