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June is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder month. PTSD is a mental health disorder that some individuals develop after experiencing a life-threatening or traumatic event such as military combat, a shooting, an automobile accident, sexual trauma or some other type of horrific accident or experience.
This includes the trauma associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
PTSD affects relationships with family, friends, co-workers and anyone that comes in contact with your loved one. It is complex, difficult to understand and difficult to live with. Experts sometimes refer to a person with PTSD as having “invisible wounds,” as the trauma experience is deep and hard to understand. Left untreated, PTSD can lead to substance abuse, anxiety and depression, loss of job or marriage, and even loss of life. The pandemic numbers may be waning, but post-pandemic PTSD is here for the long run.
Showing your love and support for someone with PTSD isn’t easy. You can’t force your loved ones to do anything that they don’t want to do, but you can play a significant role in their healing. For COVID-19 first responder families, here are five tips to help you deal with PTSD:
- Show your loved one care and compassion. Comfort for someone with PTSD comes from feeling loved, engaged and accepted. This can be difficult in the throes of emotional chaos and despair, but keep showing all the love and caring you are capable of giving.
- Continue to do the things you all enjoyed before COVID-19. Go to the beach, re-engage in a fun familiar hobby, seek calming experiences such as yoga, meditation or exercise. Stay engaged and promote a better future.
- Watch out for triggers. This is especially important around July 4 for veterans who react negatively to fireworks. For COVID-19 loved ones, keep over-the-top news programs off TV and social media. Should triggers occur, respond by being a good listener and comforter. Look for signs of distress but avoid passing judgment.
- Take care of your needs first. Set boundaries for yourself and your loved one. Have honest conversations about what is happening. Include all family members in the discussions and encourage them to do the same.
- Join a support group or seek additional help. This is a good idea for yourself and your loved one. Attend a group even if your loved one won’t go, as you, too, need help with PTSD. Be sure to seek medical advice when needed. Many new and innovative treatment modalities for PTSD have been developed over the last two decades. Educate yourself on the latest advances in psychiatric and social support. Share what you learn with others.
With proper treatment and support, those with PTSD can begin to get their lives back. Such recovery is very much dependent upon and can be accelerated by your love and support. The person you loved before PTSD is in there somewhere. Your love and acceptance are important to bring that person back.
Jaime B. Parent is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and author of the book, “Moving Past PTSD, Consciousness, Understanding and Appreciation for Military Veterans and their Families.” He lives in Deerfield Beach.