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War spares no one: how to communicate with people who have survived a traumatic experience

Mental injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder – these are the consequences of war. The number of people who have faced these mental consequences of hostilities is increasing every day. Therefore, everyone should know about the elementary rules of communication with those who have suffered.

One of the less obvious consequences of war is psychological trauma. Olena Gerasimyuk, writer and paramedic of the Volunteer Battalion of Hospitaliers, advises how to communicate with people who have suffered psychologically from the war.

"It is about the complete lack of awareness of many civilians about the injuries of veterans, displaced persons, prisoners of war, volunteers, relatives and others", – says Olena Gerasimyuk.

Most people don't know how to deal with trauma victims / Photo Unsplash

The conversation will be about PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder.

PTSD is an extreme reaction to a severe stressor that threatens a person's life. Most often, PTSD can manifest itself within 6 months after the moment of trauma, but it can also happen much sooner – everything is very individual. The disorder can manifest itself through sleep disturbances and nightmares, obsessive thoughts about a traumatic event, insecurity, irritability, depressive states, etc. Source: UNICEF

The consequences can be dire

People who have not seen the horrors of war with their own eyes often neglect the moral condition of those who have seen and experienced it.

The following mistakes are most often assumed:

  1. They use offensive and unacceptable language. A person with trauma may believe that this is a provocation.

  2. They do unexpected and, at first glance, completely normal actions that can frighten a person with an injury.

  3. This behavior can lead to re-injury and unexpected reactions.

A person can react not only verbally, but also physically – while not always controlling himself.

Respect is first and foremost

Therefore, the first rule of communication with people who are traumatized by war is unconditional respect for their body and psyche.

  • You cannot touch a person's body without their permission

"War is a paradoxical thing, which can at the same time confirm in you the idea of ​​the value of borders, but at the same time – destroy your personal ones. When you grab a person with PTSD without permission – this "good-natured gesture" can cause such an aggressive reaction", – says Olena.
  • Don't blame veterans or refugees for their reactions

You can't blame a person for being too emotional, reacting sensitively, or asking you to stop some unpleasant actions.

"Stop telling a person who has been through real hell on earth how to feel afterwards", – warns the girl.

Even a simple hug can scare a person with PTSD / Photo Unsplash

Anger, tears, aggression, despair, irritation, bursts of laughter are far from the entire spectrum of emotions that victims of war have to face.

Also, in no case should you give advice to a person to "pull yourself together", "stop being sad", etc. Such demands are completely ineffective, they only humiliate and annoy people with PTSD.

Remember that people with trauma cannot and should not behave in such a way that others feel comfortable.

  • Don't support myths about PTSD

You can't tell a person something like "you were inadequate even before the war" etc.

More tips from Olena Gerasimyuk:

  • Do not force the person to talk about their traumatic experience.

  • Don't give dubious or stereotypical advice that you think will "get rid of the problem".

  • Do not devalue what you hear from a person who has decided to share his experience with you.

Relevant. Olena Gerasimyuk also advises everyone to read the book "Invisible Consequences of War", which was created by Ukrainian psychologists. This is a small guide created by the "Juridical Hundred" association. It contains advice from practical experience working with veterans and their families.

Simple tips for everyone

YouthFuture advises to be empathetic when communicating with someone who has a trauma.

Listen to the person if they need it / Photo by Unsplash

Follow the simple rules:

  • Do not use offensive terms such as "contused", "injured", "psycho", "abnormal", etc. If there is a need to name a person's condition, you can say "person with PTSD", "person with trauma", "person with disability", etc. That is, the person should always come first, not his injury or illness.

  • Be respectful of a person's personal boundaries. Before approaching, hugging, or patting the shoulder, ask if it would be appropriate. Don't touch a person's body without their express permission, even if it's just a show of friendship or affection.

  • Do not give any advice, especially if you are not asked for it. Don't say standard phrases about "time heals", "get over yourself", etc. But if a person asks to listen to him, then do it and keep what was said a secret.

  • Respect people who have survived shelling or have a concussion. Do not play loud music or make loud noises. Sharp, unexpected sounds can startle a person with PTSD, and also lead to re-traumatization or an unpredictable physical or mental reaction.

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