How to Help Someone with PTSD

A friend of mine recently called me in a panic. He was worried about one of his family members who had returned from a war zone. “He says he’s going to kill himself, and he’s hiding away in his house. I’m not sure what to do,” my friend explained.

I wasn’t sure what to say about the situation and decided to do some investigating. The following is what I discovered.

First and foremost, PTSD is defined by the Mayo Clinic as “a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.”

Not every person suffering from PTSD realizes they need help. In the case of my friend’s family member, he has denied it each time he’s been confronted.

If you’ve found yourself in a similar situation, Family of a Vet suggests you take one or more of the following steps:

1. Call 911 if your loved one is in immediate danger of hurting himself or another person.

If you decide to go down this route, make sure you share that he or she is suffering from PTSD. This is very important for the police to know, as there have been multiple cases of veterans mistaking police officers for insurgents/the enemy. The more law enforcement knows about the person and situation, the better.

2. Call the VA or visit a nearby emergency room if you think they need in-patient care.

Visit the VA (Veterans Administration Medical Center) in your area. If for any reason there isn’t one close by, go to an emergency room. Explain the situation and how your loved one is acting. You will be provided with information on mental health treatment facilities. Emergency rooms normally have developed relationships with one or more center, as they often have to send patients out for help.

If you visit an emergency room, it is vital that you choose your words carefully. Make sure they fully understand that your loved one or friend is suffering from PTSD.

Click here to find a VA near you.

3.  Help them gain access to counseling.

If your loved one is open to counseling or you think you can persuade them, there are two VA-sponsored options. You can contact a VA near you or a VAMC (VA Medical Center) to schedule an appointment. When you talk to a representative, it’s important that you tell them exactly which military operation (Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, etc.) he or she participated.

Family of a Vet recommends trying the VA first because it sometimes takes longer to be seen at a VAMC.

4. You may also want to contact these organizations if needed.

The National Suicide Hotline (800-273-TALK), the National Veteran’s PTSD Hotline (800-293-1428), or The National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-293-1438).