You can take steps to help a loved one cope with stress brought on by a traumatic event, whether it's a result of an accident, violence of any kind — such as an assault; verbal, physical, domestic or sexual abuse; or military combat — or another type of trauma.
A person with acute stress disorder (ASD) has severe stress symptoms during the first month after the traumatic event. Often, this involves feeling afraid or on edge, flashbacks or nightmares, difficulty sleeping, or other symptoms. If your loved one has symptoms that last longer than a month and make it hard to go about daily routines, go to work or school, or handle important tasks, he or she could have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Whether your loved one has ASD or PTSD, assessment and counseling (psychotherapy) by a professional can make a critical difference in recovery. Encourage him or her to talk to a doctor or a trained mental health professional.
You can also help by being a supportive listener, without attempting to "fix" the situation. Here are some suggestions:
If you think your loved one may attempt suicide, get help:
Coping with traumatic stress is an ongoing process, and there is no specific time frame for recovery. You might have many conversations with your loved one over weeks or months as he or she processes the traumatic experience during or after a period of professional care.
You'll be of more help to your loved one if you learn about ASD and PTSD from trusted medical sources and encourage your loved one to follow treatment recommendations. You may need to help your loved one stay connected with healthy social supports.
And don't forget to take care of yourself. Coping with trauma that happened to a loved one can be difficult to deal with, and it can make it harder for you to help your loved one if you don't take care of yourself. Take time for the things you enjoy, accept help from others when needed and make an appointment to see a mental health professional if you're struggling to cope.