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PTSD - What to say

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Do you know someone with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

It can be really hard to figure out the best way to help them, or the right thing to say.

We sat down with Claire, who lives with PTSD, for her tips on what to say to someone with PTSD.

With the help of her doctor, psychologist, husband, family, friends and co-workers, Claire says she’s come a long way to overcoming her PTSD.

“Without the support of all these people I probably wouldn’t be here today, so thank you to everyone who was there for me. I really am lucky to have so much support,” she says.

Claire knows it can be hard being a support person, so she’s shared some things to say if someone you know is experiencing PTSD, and how it makes her feel when people she knows say these things to her.

What to say to someone with PTSD

  • “It doesn't matter how long it takes, I am here for you.
    Feels like: “I feel really supported, as if you're not pressuring me or giving me deadlines.”
  • “Instead of going to a big social event, let's watch a movie at your house."
    Feels like: “Thank you, I really can't handle being in a social situation right now, but still don't want to be left alone.”
  • “I am going to learn more about your condition, so I can try to understand.”
    Feels like: “Thank you, that really makes me feel like you care.”
  • “I know you probably don't want to come, but we'd love to see you."
    Feels like: “I’m glad that you haven't forgotten about me, thank you for still inviting me and making me feel like I don't have to come up with an excuse for not coming.”
  • “We all love you and think you're amazing."
    Feels like: “Thank you, I needed to hear that.”
  • “We can make plans to do something and if you feel uncomfortable, I will come straight home with you."
    Feels like: “Ok, I would like to try going somewhere. Knowing you've got my back if I get overwhelmed is really reassuring.”
  • “I don’t mind that you're still in your pyjamas...here, let me do your dishes."
    Feels like: “I am having a really hard time looking after myself and housework is stressing me out, thank you for helping.”
  • “I'm worried that you might harm yourself, so I'm just going to hang out at your place."
    Feels like: “I'm worried too, your company is appreciated.”
  • “Please go to the doctor, I think they can help."
    Feels like: “It’s always good to get help from professionals, my GP could put me in touch with mental health services.”

Finally, Claire suggests that little actions can speak louder than words.

Giving hugs, being present, listening without judgment, not trying to ‘fix’ someone but sitting with them anyway, bringing food, and helping with housework are all great actions that can help.

Claire cautions loved ones not to tell people they need to get back to normal or make an assumption about how long recovery will take.

Remember, it’s not affecting you as much as it’s affecting them, but being a support person isn’t always easy. Make sure you’ve got more than one person on the support team and look after yourself, too.

If you’d like to learn more about PTSD, follow this link.

To share your story about your experience with mental distress story, email Like Minds, Like Mine.