When your loved one has a mental illness like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it affects the entire family. Those with PTSD may be prone to outbursts of rage and may act moody, anxious, depressed, or aggressive. You and other family members may feel as if you are walking on eggshells, never knowing when your loved one may erupt into frightening or threatening behavior.
You may feel scared, frustrated, or hopeless in the face of your loved one’s mental illness. But there is hope. Mental illnesses are chronic but treatable disorders. With your support and treatment by a mental health professional, your loved one can learn to manage their mental illness and lead a happy, productive life.
How to Help A Loved One With PTSD
Fortunately, there are many ways you can support your loved one with PTSD.
- Educate yourself and your family about PTSD. Once you understand that mental illness is a chronic disease, it becomes easier to understand why your loved one can’t simply “snap out of it.” The more you understand, the better able you are to encourage your loved one to seek help and to support them during and after treatment.
- Invite open communication, but don’t push. Discuss past triggering situations and ask your loved one what made those situations easier to handle, as well as what made them worse. Let them know you are always ready to listen without judgment.
- Encourage healthy, fun activities. Small gatherings with family and close friends, nature walks, or an upbeat movie can be enjoyable, yet non-threatening experiences. Let your loved one go at their own pace, without pressuring them to go outside their comfort zone.
- Encourage treatment. Mental health counseling, support groups, and family involvement in the treatment process increase the likelihood that your loved one will learn to manage their PTSD. Studies find individuals whose families support their treatment plan are more likely to stay committed to treatment and enjoy the best long-term outcomes.
- Accompany them to doctor’s appointments. Your loved one may feel overwhelmed when listening to health professionals. If they are open to it, you can help them stay on track by taking notes about medications and other treatment suggestions.
- Have a crisis plan in place. Plan how to help your loved one if they have a nightmare, flashback, or other crisis. Make sure they know who to call if they experience suicidal thoughts. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 800-273-8255.
Take Care of Yourself
If you don’t keep yourself healthy and centered, you can’t give your loved one the help they need. Make time to enjoy activities and social engagements that are important to your well-being.
By living a healthy lifestyle, including exercise, good nutrition, and avoiding cigarettes, drugs, and alcohol, you act as a positive role model for your loved one.
- If you think your loved one may attempt suicide, call 911 immediately.
- You or your loved one can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline of 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) day or night to talk to a trained counselor. Veterans should dial the same number and press “1” to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.
- A support group can be a great help to your loved one and your family. Healthline lists The Best Online PTSD Support Groups of 2021, or you can ask your mental health counselor for local resources.
Rising Phoenix Wellness Services offers a full continuum of care for individuals struggling with mental health issues, substance abuse, or both. Contact us for information on our PTSD treatment program and other services.