Supporting a colleague who has confided in you about their battle with PTSD, may be a little daunting. You may worry that you do not know enough about PTSD and will therefore say, or do, the wrong thing.
We have put together a brief list of actions that can go a long way in supporting a colleague with PTSD. In fact, people suffering with this disorder often find it extremely difficult to discuss their condition with anyone due to feelings of guilt, shame or simply just fear.
Here’s how you can help:
Making the first move to offer help may feel a little intimidating, but only by asking will you be able to provide support to your colleague. This help may be in the form of walking with them to their car after work, sitting with them after a meeting to help them understand information, or being available to talk through areas that the individual usually has no issues with. Being a trusted person that they can talk to during difficult times such as following a flash back, or during moments of anxiety, can make a significant difference to how it will affect their day.
It can be extremely difficult for a person suffering from PTSD to ask someone for help. By offering support, you could be making a big impact on their lives.
Often, when people are having trouble getting the words out, we “helpfully” try to fill in the gaps. In reality, we are interrupting them, which can actually prevent people from wanting to continue to talk. Listening, without interrupting, can be all that is needed.
The person speaking will feel much more supported and feel like they can explain what is bothering them, without the worry of someone steering the conversation into a different direction based on assumptions. If the person speaking has difficulty explaining verbally, you could encourage them to explain in writing.
Being open to discussions about how you can personally make changes in the workplace, is a fantastic quality. This may not only make a difference to the individual and their performance at work, but also enhance everyone’s understanding of what is expected. This can help develop a positive mental health culture in the workplace.
One of the most important things to help a colleague with PTSD feel supported is to do your own research on what they are dealing with on a daily basis.
Lack of understanding can cause some people to dismiss how someone may be feeling. They may think that the people suffering are exaggerating their symptoms or wanting attention. These opinions can cause people suffering with PTSD to keep their feelings to themselves, for fear of being judged. They can also create a negative working environment. Unless you have all the facts, keeping opinions private can help to make the workplace more comfortable and supportive.
Although these tips can help you support a colleague in the workplace, they may also be useful for supporting a friend or family member who is experiencing PTSD.