The 27th June 2019 is global PTSD Awareness Day. Understanding what trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder is and how it effects people is the first step towards knowing how to best support people experiencing it.
Trauma, or psychological trauma, is a type of damage to the mind following a stressful or traumatic event which may have threatened their life of safety or that of those around them.
Up to 57% of Australians experience a traumatic event at some stage in their lives.
Following a traumatic event, people can find it difficult to feel safe, and they can experience a variety of feelings, each person being effected differently.
Most people gradually start to recover from a traumatic experience in the following few weeks. However, some people have continuing symptoms, or find their symptoms getting worse.
This can lead to the mental illnesses post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or even depression or anxiety or other serious mental illnesses.
Trauma exposure can leave people with feelings of guilt, fear, sadness, anger, isolation, shock, or physical effects such as racing heart, headaches, trouble sleeping, shaking or sweating.
Most people associate PTSD or trauma only with war veterans. However, people can be effected by PTSD for many different reasons.
Ryan Dixon, Psychologist with the Open Minds Mental Health Hub Morayfield, said: “Everyone deals with traumatic or stressful events in different ways. Some people may withdraw from family and friends or become aggressive, while others turn to alcohol or drugs.
“Some symptoms of PTSD include dreams or flashbacks to the distressing event, avoiding people or places that remind you of the event, or changes to your mood or thinking.”
PTSD does not just heal over time, it is a serious and debilitating mental illness that needs professional support to help work through. The behaviour associated with PTSD is because of the illness, it is not a weakness.
At Open Minds, we partner with Acacia Connection as our Employee Assistance Program, to support our employees and their families through difficulties such as traumatic events.
Acacia Connection have provided the following seven tips for coping with trauma exposure:
1. Establish a regular routine – this can help the person settle and help them feel stable again.
2. Focus on self-care – eating regularly, socialising, exercising, getting a good night’s sleep, and general self-care is important to help cope.
3. Limit further exposure – further exposure can re-traumatise a person who has experienced trauma, so they should avoid re-exposure wherever possible.
4. Try grounding – this brings attention back to the present moment and helps people remind themselves that they are safe in the present time.
5. Connect to social supports – making sure there are people to talk to or be with, and avoiding withdrawing from others is important.
6. Education – researching common trauma reactions helps people understand that they are not alone, and that there is support available
7. Seek help – if someone’s trauma has developed into PTSD, this doesn’t go away over time and will need to be dealt with by a professional such as a psychologist or counsellor.
If you or someone you know has been affected by trauma and feel that this may have developed into PTSD, you can book an appointment here at the Open Minds Mental Health Hub at Morayfield to see a mental health professional or by calling us on 1300 696 463.
You may be eligible for a Mental Health Care Plan as issued by your GP, which will help with the cost of the appointment through a medicare rebate.
The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) covers PTSD when it is classified as a psychosocial disability.
A psychosocial disability is the term used to describe disabilities that may arise from mental illnesses, and applies to those with a significant mental illness that is likely to be permanent.
Find out more here about PTSD and the NDIS.