When to get help for PTSD
When you or someone in your family has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it's important to know when and how to get help.
Call 911 or other emergency numbers right away if you:
- Think you can't keep from hurting yourself or someone else.
- Hear voices that tell you to hurt yourself.
If you know someone who is threatening to commit suicide, try to find out whether the person:
- Has the weapons or medicines to commit suicide or do harm to another person.
- Has set a time and place to commit suicide or describes a plan to do so.
- Thinks that there is no other way to end the pain and is feeling hopeless.
If a suicide threat seems real:
- Call 911, a suicide hotline, or the police.
- If you feel safe, stay with the person or ask someone you trust to stay with the person until the crisis has passed.
- Encourage him or her to seek professional help.
- Don't argue with the person ("It's not as bad as you think") or challenge the person ("You're not the type to commit suicide").
- Tell the person you don't want him or her to die. Talk about the situation as openly as possible.
Call your doctor if you or someone you know has any of the warning signs of suicide. These include:
- Talking or thinking a lot about killing yourself.
- Feeling like you're not in control of your thoughts.
- Spending a lot of time alone.
- Depression followed by sudden cheerfulness, which may mean the person has made a decision about a suicide plan.
- A previous suicide attempt.
- Drinking too much alcohol or using drugs (alcohol or substance abuse).
- Always talking, writing, or drawing about death or suicide.
- Giving away personal possessions and putting affairs in order, such as writing a will.
Call your doctor if you or your loved one has had any of the following symptoms for more than 3 months or if they are causing a lot of stress or making life hard to deal with.
- You find it hard to sleep and have nightmares about the event.
- You find it hard to focus, control anger, or feel safe.
- You feel very guilty about surviving a traumatic event that others did not survive.
- You have attacks of intense fear or anxiety that come on without reason.
- You have physical symptoms such as chest pain, a rapid or irregular heartbeat, or trouble breathing.
- You find it hard to stop thinking about the event and are often reminded of it.
Preparing for an emergency
It's important to have things ready to go in case you or your loved one has an emergency.
Have emergency phone numbers for the:
- Social worker or case manager.
- Local sheriff or police.
- Hospital and emergency room.
Create a "hospital pack" for medical emergencies that includes:
- Insurance card or information.
- List of the medicines you take, and dosages.
- List of current medical problems.
- List of mental health treatment history.
- Clothes and personal things you may need at the hospital.
You or your loved one may want to talk to others about what to do in an emergency. Talk to a neighbor about child care or house-sitting during an emergency. Talk to your employer and your loved one's employer about how to deal with job responsibilities at this time.
If your spouse or loved one is admitted to the hospital, it's helpful to:
- Give him or her some space after being admitted.
- Give background information to the caseworker or social worker.
- Stay calm. When visiting your loved one, focus on your hope for recovery.
- Use this time to relax and recharge.
Last Updated: January 21, 2009
Author: Jeannette Curtis