Experiencing a traumatic event and recovering from it isn’t easy. But what also isn’t easy is the stigma that many face, some on a daily basis.
Despite there being a staggering rise in mental health awareness, stigma is still prevalent. Considering 1 in 4 people will experience some form of mental health problem in their lifetime, it astounds me how some people still stigmatise those affected.
Stigma will make the person affected feel isolated, judged and worse about what they’re experiencing.
Here are some of the most common things said (some of which I’ve experienced myself) that you should never say to someone affected by trauma.
- “IF YOU DIDN’T SERVE IN THE MILITARY, YOU DON’T HAVE IT!”
Servicemen/women in the Armed Forces are at a high risk of developing PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) due to the dangerous nature of their work.
But trauma is not exclusive to the Armed Forces. It does not discriminate on the grounds of race, religion or occupation etc. and anyone can be affected by it.
Such examples of a traumatic event are:
Military Combat/Being a POW
Losing a loved one suddenly/in disturbing circumstances
Being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness
2. “WELL, (SUCH-A-BODY) WENT THROUGH IT TOO AND THEY’RE FINE!”
Most people after a traumatic incident will experience some post traumatic stress. These symptoms can begin to cease after a few weeks as the body and mind comes to terms with what happened. This is known as the, “acute stress reaction”.
But for 1 in 3 people (according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists) these symptoms will continue.
This can last for months, even years. Why some people develop PTSD and others don’t, though there are many possible explanations, is still unknown.
3. “YOU’RE JUST DOING THIS FOR ATTENTION!”
We don’t have nightmares, avoid certain places or have flashbacks just for a laugh.
Our fight or flight responses kick in in an attempt to keep us safe from harm. Only there isn’t any harm there. We might know that consciously, but our survival instincts are still catching up.
Anything that reminds us of the traumatic incident can send it in to overdrive, because it equates the trigger with a possible threat.
I.e. A woman is assaulted by a man in a black hoodie. Two months later, she is shopping and sees a black hoodie on a mannequin. That triggers a memory of the assault. She begins to feel increasingly frightened, which leads to a panic attack.
So our body’s natural survival instincts kick in, ready to “fight”, “flight” or “freeze”, which can mean being on edge, hyper-vigilant, going in to a blind panic etc.
So no, we’re not “just doing it for attention.”
4. “BUT THAT HAPPENED AGES AGO!”
You could argue that the Vietnam War was “ages” ago but how many husbands, fathers and grandfathers etc. still can’t talk about/get distressed or upset by what they experienced, forty years later?
How long ago the trauma was doesn’t make it any less traumatizing.
For those affected by trauma, it can still feel like it happened yesterday, even if was seventy years ago.
5. “GET OVER IT!”
A traumatized person can’t just “get over it”. Whatever the incident was, it can affect some people both mentally and physically for the rest of their lives.
From personal experience, being traumatized feels like your mind has had a major electric shock. Imagine if that was a physical injury, you wouldn’t say “just get up!” would you?
Hope this post has been useful guys and if you know someone who has been effected by trauma, let them know you are there for them.
Do your research to get insight and awareness so you can support them on the road to recovery.
SAMARITANS (UK): 116 123
NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE (USA): 1-800-273-8255