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How can I help someone with an OSI?

Updated: Jan 10, 2022

At OSI-CAN we frequently get calls from parents or other family members asking how they can help their spouse or son or daughter or close friend who is suffering from an OSI. It is difficult to help someone who may not yet be ready to accept help. When someone you care about suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, it can be overwhelming. But with these steps, you can help your loved one move on with their life.

1. Helping someone with PTSD tip 1: Provide social support

a. Don’t pressure your loved one into talking.

b. Do “normal” things with your loved one

c. Let your loved one take the lead

d. Manage your own stress.

e. Be patient.

f. Educate yourself about PTSD.

g. Accept (and expect) mixed feelings.

2. Tip 2: Be a good listener

a. A person with PTSD may need to talk about the traumatic event over and over again.

b. Some of the things your loved one tells you might be very hard to listen to.

c. Communication pitfalls to avoid

i. Don’t…

1. Give easy answers or blithely tell your loved one everything is going to be okay.

2. Stop your loved one from talking about their feelings or fears.

3. Offer unsolicited advice or tell your loved one what they “should” do.

4. Blame all of your relationship or family problems on your loved one’s PTSD.

5. Invalidate, minimize, or deny your loved one’s traumatic experience

6. Give ultimatums or make threats or demands.

7. Make your loved one feel weak because they aren’t coping as well as others.

8. Tell your loved one they were lucky it wasn’t worse.

9. Take over with your own personal experiences or feelings.

3. Tip 3: Rebuild trust and safety

a. Express your commitment to the relationship.

b. Create routines.

c. Minimize stress at home

d. Speak of the future and make plans.

e. Keep your promises

f. Speak of the future and make plans

g. Keep your promises.

h. Emphasize your loved one’s strengths.

i. Look for ways to empower your loved one.

4. Tip 4: Anticipate and manage triggers

a. Common external PTSD triggers

i. Sights, sounds, or smells associated with the trauma.

ii. People, locations, or things that recall the trauma.

iii. Significant dates or times, such as anniversaries or a specific time of day.

iv. Nature (certain types of weather, seasons, etc.).

v. Conversations or media coverage about trauma or negative news events.

vi. Situations that feel confining (stuck in traffic, at the doctor’s office, in a crowd).

vii. Relationship, family, school, work, or money pressures or arguments.

viii. Funerals, hospitals, or medical treatment.

b. Common internal PTSD triggers

i. Physical discomfort, such as hunger, thirst, fatigue, sickness, and sexual frustration.

ii. Any bodily sensation that recalls the trauma, including pain, old wounds and scars, or a similar injury.

iii. Strong emotions, especially feeling helpless, out of control, or trapped.

iv. Feelings toward family members, including mixed feelings of love, vulnerability, and resentment.

5. Tip 5: Deal with volatility and anger

a. Decide with your loved one how you should respond when they have a nightmare, flashback, or panic attack. Having a plan in place will make the situation less scary for both of you.

i. You’ll also be in a much better position to help your loved one calm down.

b. Watch for signs that your loved one is angry.

c. Try to remain calm.

d. Give the person space.

e. Ask how you can help.

f. Put safety first, both for yourself and for your loved one.

g. Help your loved one manage their anger.

6. Tip 6: Support treatment

a. Emphasize the benefits.

b. Focus on specific problems.

c. Acknowledge the hassles and limitations of therapy.

d. Enlist help from people your loved one respects and trusts.

e. Encourage your loved one to join a support group.

7. Tip 7: Take care of yourself

a. Take care of your physical needs

b. Cultivate your own support system.

c. Make time for your own life.

d. Spread the responsibility.

e. Set boundaries.

We at OSI-CAN do not see PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a Disorder, we see it as an Injury you can recover from. If you are suffering from the symptoms of an Operational Stress Injury, then a PTSD or PTSI diagnosis is not required to get our help!

Our mission is to inspire hope and contribute to the continuous well-being and recovery process of Veterans and Front Line Protectors across Canada.

We seek to empower and encourage them to strive for recovery through peer and professional support while creating greater public awareness.

The target demographic of OSI-CAN are but are not limited to: former and serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces, Allied Armed Forces, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Frontline Protectors --- which include Municipal Police Services, CN Police Services, Emergency Medical Services, Fire Protection Services, Wildland Firefighters, Hospital Trauma personnel, Nurses, healthcare Workers, Social Workers, Animal Control Officers, Coroners, Indigenous Emergency Management, Victim Services Personnel, Emergency Communications Specialist, Corrections Officers, “Volunteer” First Responders, Conservation Officers, Aboriginal Emergency Services personnel, Tow Truck drivers who clean up accident scenes and their spouses/partners. This demographic was chosen due to the commonality of experiences they share through the service they provide to the country and community. We have a special interest and support volunteer first responders as they are not eligible for programs such as Workers' Compensation.

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