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Do you think your friend or loved one may be experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

Support them to access professional help and resources.

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that some people develop following a deeply disturbing event, for example:

  • sexual assault

  • physical attack

  • traffic accident

  • natural disaster

  • fighting in or being exposed to war

PTSD develops in approximately one in three people who experience trauma . Some people are more likely to develop PTSD if they have mental health problems, addictions, or experienced other trauma earlier in life.

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What are the symptoms to watch out for?

Common PTSD symptoms can be:  

  • flashbacks 

  • panic attacks

  • trouble sleeping or nightmares

  • negative changes in behavior and mood

  • severe anxiety

  • depression

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  • If you recognize these symptoms in your friend or a loved one, ask yourself if you’re aware of a traumatic event that may have occurred in their life recently.

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  • You can try to have an open and non-judgmental conversation with them.

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  • Ultimately, encourage them to see a doctor and get professional treatment.

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Quiz

Your loved one has just lost their home in a tornado. Which symptoms below might be a sign of PTSD?

What can you do to support their recovery?

Dos and Don'ts

Do...

  1. Understand more about PTSD. By educating yourself about the condition, you’ll have more empathy and understanding of what your friend or family member is going through.

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  2. Find an enjoyable activity to share with them. A regular routine will help them feel more in control of their life.

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  3. Know their triggers and avoid the situations or scenarios that might cause an emotional reaction. For instance, if their trauma is linked to loud noises, you can steer clear of noisy environments. Even small steps you can take can make a significant impact.

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Don't...

  1. Pressure them into "talking it through". PTSD is about unwanted memory of trauma. Allow them to open up when they want to.

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  2. Check on them if they're attending treatment. Your support should not be overbearing.

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Don't give up!

A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.

-- Christopher Reeve

This idea of heroism is particularly interesting: Christopher Reeve became very famous as the main character of the 1978 movie Superman. In 1995, he suffered a tragic accident that left him partially paralyzed. Courage became a part of his everyday life.

So, if your loved one receives a PTSD diagnosis:

You should know that this condition isn’t a life sentence, and many people can find the courage to overcome PTSD.

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Recovery is a process.

Although recovery is possible, It will take time, conscious effort, and support from friends and family.

Be patient and understand they won’t get better overnight.

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Encourage continued treatment: Your loved one has the best chance for recovery if they seek professional help.

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When should I seek emergency help?

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If your loved one is in danger of attempting suicide or hurting themselves:

  • Make sure someone stays with her or him to keep them safe.

  • Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.

If you know someone who has suicidal thoughts, don’t wait!

  • Reach out to someone you trust or your family doctor for advice.

  • Contact someone in your faith community.

  • Call a suicide hotline number: US 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255), in Canada 1-833-456-4566.

Don't forget about yourself!

Being in a good state of mind can help you better support your friend or loved one.

  • Take a long walk in nature.

  • Take up mindfulness meditation. 

  • Think about what makes you strong.

  • Find ways to strengthen your own resilience.

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