June is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month, and contrary to popular belief, combat exposure is not the only contributor to this condition. A study conducted by the Naval Health Research Center found that non-combat deployment-related stressors play a significant role in contributing to cases of PTSD. This anxiety condition can result from experiencing an event involving direct or indirect threat of death, serious injury or a physical threat (eg. car accident, sexual assault, witnessing a traumatic incident, etc.). Seeking help for PTSD and other stress-reactions is a sign of strength and can make a real difference in the lives of those who need support—and their loved ones. If you, a shipmate or family member are experiencing symptoms that may be PTSD, consider the following tips provided by the Real Warriors Campaign to help you start a dialogue about the treatment process and take the first step toward wellness.
Making a plan to talk with a health care provider about your psychological health concerns is an important step toward improving your overall health. If you have been through trauma or other challenges, it may be hard to talk about your experiences. A health care provider can help you understand your feelings and maintain your mental fitness. This article offers useful tips to help you choose a provider, prepare for your first appointment and make the most of your visit.
Choosing a Provider
Finding a health care professional that you are comfortable with can help you have a positive experience. If the first provider you meet is not right for you, keep looking until you find someone you feel comfortable connecting with. A psychological health care professional should:
- Respect you and your feelings
- Allow you to express yourself
- Understand that you may need time before you are ready to talk
- Talk to you about a plan to help address your concerns
Preparing for Your First Appointment
Keep track of any feelings or symptoms you experience with as much detail as possible, such as:
- How long the feeling or symptom lasts
- Triggers-such as events, experiences or thoughts- that may make your symptoms worse and what you did to make them better
List your medical information. Include any:
- Physical or psychological concerns
- Names and dosage of medications or supplements
Write down important personal information, including:
- Family members with psychological health concerns
- Major life changes
- Traumatic events
During Your Appointment
Answer Questions Honestly
You may be asked:
- Have you ever experienced a traumatic event? How long ago?
- Are you always on alert or easily scared? At what times?
- Do you often feel irritable or angry? How often?
- Do you drink alcohol or misuse substances? How often?
- Do you have any thoughts about harming yourself or ending your life?
Ask Questions Examples include:
- What‘s causing my symptoms?
- What treatments, if any, do you recommend?
- Where can I find more information about coping with my symptoms?
Bring Someone You Trust or Take Notes
Your provider may give you a lot of information during your first appointment. You may feel overwhelmed by everything you learned, which can make it hard to remember all that was said. Ask a family member or friend to go with you or plan to take notes to keep track of all the information you receive.
Not sure how to start talking about a traumatic event? Use this checklist as a guide. Fill it out and show it to your health care professional during your visit.
Talking about your psychological health can be challenging, but getting help early can improve your chances of a full recovery. Reaching out is a sign of strength and talking with a professional can help. If you or a loved one needs additional support, contact the DCoE Outreach Center to speak confidentially with trained health resource consultants 24/7 by calling 866-966-1020, by using the Real Warriors Live Chat or by emailing email@example.com. Watch video profiles to learn about service members who have successfully used the Military Health System and other psychological health resources for support.
Navy Suicide Prevention Branch is a proud partner of the Real Warriors Campaign. To learn more about the campaign, visit www.realwarriors.net. For more resources to support Every Sailor, Every Day, visit www.suicide.navy.mil and http://www.public.navy.mil/BUPERS-NPC/SUPPORT/21ST_CENTURY_SAILOR/OSC/Pages/default.aspx.
BONUS! The Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD and the Department of Defense’s National Center for Telehealth and Technology have created a free mobile app to help service members and veterans recognize and find support for symptoms that may occur after traumatic events. To learn more about the app, including how to download it for Apple and Android devices, check out http://realwarriors.net/active/treatment/ptsdcoach.php.