Yesterday was PTSD Awareness Day, and it was also my wedding Anniversary. It’s a bit ironic that they both fell on the same day, as that’s what this post is about, supporting a person with mental health problems. So how to support someone with PTSD during their recovery?
I was diagnosed with PTSD about six months ago and have done lots of research about PTSD since then. Check my previous posts on PTSD and how to deal with it. I also started PTSD: My Story Project to offer others a safe place to share their experience with PTSD.
Ways to support someone with PTSD and other mental health problems
It’s important to say that we have to remember that we’re all different. We react differently to things and express our feelings differently. Considering this let’s look at how you could support someone with PTSD or any other mental health problem.
- Effective communication – this is important on both sides. You, as a carer, can encourage the person to be open and honest about their feelings. I remember when I felt like a burden to my husband after coming back from the hospital and didn’t want to tell him about my feelings. I was ashamed, but as it started to cause tension between us, I came out with the truth about my feelings. It felt so much better afterwards as we sorted it out through honest and open communication. He reassured me that there is no reason for me to feel like a burden. A conversation in a respectful way will help you to sort out any disagreements or conflicts. It’s crucial, to be honest, and open with others. This way, we let them know how we really feel which enables them to provide appropriate support. When talking to someone with PTSD or other mental health issues, focus on what they are saying, not what you want to hear. Listen to them, don’t interrupt or force your opinion on them. Being confrontational will not help the situation. Don’t judge or jump to conclusions when they open up about their struggles. It’s not easy for them, and you want to show them that they can trust you. They need to feel that they can share their concerns with you without being judged. Sometimes all they need is to be heard instead of lectured about what they should be doing or what’s best for them. Resist the urge to offer advice and have a solution for everything. On the other hand, it is also essential that they know what can they expect from you.
- Support – sometimes they may feel confused about how they feel or how they react to situations themselves. It may be all they need is just someone to be there for them. I also understand that it wasn’t easy for my husband either when I was trying to deal with anxiety and flashbacks. It was hard for him to see me getting overwhelmed or reacting to things in ways I wouldn’t have ever before. I know that there were times when he, along with myself, would wish I could just get over it. But we both also knew that if I could, I would. Instead, he would help me get through it; it has to be a team effort. Also, remember that blaming each other when things go wrong won’t help. Instead of blaming the other person, explain to them and help them to move forward. However, don’t beat yourself up either when things don’t go the way you both want. It’s not your fault if things get difficult. It doesn’t always need to be someone’s fault.
- Clarify roles and responsibilities – when you support someone with PTSD or other mental health issues, it is important that you both understand your responsibilities and how they will impact you. You need to understand what you can do and what you can’t do for them, so be clear about it. I was clear about the support from my husband and my friends, and we all knew that talking to a therapist would help in ways that they won’t be able to. Consider also meeting up with others in similar situations, joining support groups, researching resources such as the NHS, Mind, PTSD UK or any courses that may be available. These will help you to gain knowledge about PTSD and any other mental health issues. It is also essential to encourage others to take an active role in their recovery, meet up with others, look after their wellbeing and maintain a healthy lifestyle. However, also remember that it’s also important to set and respect boundaries.
- Encourage them to seek professional help – people may often think that they don’t need help or not want it. Often people are concerned about how others are going to portray them if they tell them that they are going to therapy. Sometimes they just don’t believe that it will resolve anything or that they will do better on their own. Perhaps they deem that things aren’t that bad so they don’t need to go to therapy. If this is the case they need to be reminded that they don’t need to be in a suicidal or self-harming stage before reaching out for professional help. It’s up to you then to take the initiative and talk to them about it. Ask them how they really feel and tell them that you are worried about them. Be honest and direct with them but always polite and stress-free. Try to explain to them that going to therapy is not a sign of personal failure and that support is available. Some people may be more likely to go if you could accompany them. However, if they have suicidal thoughts or self-harm themselves, they or you need to talk to a mental health professional immediately.
What does it mean to support someone with PTSD and other mental health problems?
Creating and maintaining a positive relationship will help both sides to be more open about their feelings. It will make the person feel supported.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ way when supporting someone with mental health issues. However, some factors that contribute to a positive relationship between you and the person include:
Factors to consider
- Trust – you can’t have a positive relationship without trusting each other. If you expect them to be honest and open, they need to know that they can trust you. There needs to be mutual trust on both sides.
- Patience – things don’t always go as we want and there are often setbacks on the way. It’s important not to get annoyed or irritated about it. However, this is easier said than done, and that’s where your support becomes so important. Remind them of the effort they have made and how far they have come. It may be helpful to make an Achievement Board; it’s a great reminder of their progress. Check it in my video on IG or TikTok.
- Appreciation – it’s exhausting living in pain and with invisible scars. It’s exhausting to constantly make efforts to live life as ‘normal’ as possible whilst also fighting the demons. Therefore, appreciate their efforts and let them know it. Let them know how well they are doing and how far they have come! They also appreciate you for all you do. It may be hard for them to express it sometimes, but they are grateful to have you around.
- Respect – mutual respect is critical in maintaining a positive relationship. Remember that people are not anything less just because they have mental health issues. So never belittle them or make fun of them. Show them respect, and they will respect you back.
- Kindness – always be kind as you never know what the person is going through. When they open to you about their feelings, be kind to them and tell them that they and their feelings matter. Even if you don’t understand or agree with them, try to look at things from their perspective. Show genuine interest in them, so they don’t feel like they are a burden to you.
Also always remember to look after yourself too. Think of your own safety and remove yourself from any danger. Remember that you need to take care of yourself to be able to support someone with PTSD or any other mental health problem. Looking after someone with mental ill-health can be overwhelmed and exhausting. Therefore it is necessary that you set some time aside and have some ‘me’ time when you do what you enjoy, away from all the responsibility. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Know that you are never alone. You can always reach for help, either to your close support circle or GP, local community health centre or other healthcare professionals.
Thank you and till next the next blog post,Follow Journeyofsmiley on WordPress.com
Share your experience
‘PTSD: My Story Project’
Do you have experience with PTSD, or do you take care of / live with someone who has? Would you like to share your story in a guest blog post?
I’m not an expert or a health professional, so the aim of this project isn’t to offer professional advice. Neither is it to pity those who experience PTSD. That’s not what I want. My aim is to raise awareness of PTSD. By sharing your story, you can inspire and empower others. You can highlight the methods that helped you. This way, you can encourage others to reach out for help.
And it may help you as well. Perhaps it’s something you feel like you’re not able to talk about within your closest circle and would like to connect with others in a similar situation. It’s nothing more than bearing an untold story inside you.The fact is that our society still lacks an understanding of mental health. Therefore, I’ve decided to share my story and invite others to join me in this project and write a blog post about their experience. By working together, we can help destigmatise mental health problems and promote wellbeing.
To be featured
If you would like to join in and share your story on my blog but don’t have the experience of writing a blog post, this isn’t a problem. You can still email smiley@journeyofsmiley, and I’d be happy to assist you with the writing. And you can use a pseudonym if you wish to stay anonymous. You can share as much of your story as you want in a way you feel comfortable with.
The only thing I ask is that you mention ‘PTSD: My story project’ in your post and briefly state why you have chosen to take part in it. You will be allowed to approve the post before publishing it, should it be edited.