People also struggle on with their poor mental health after comparing their situation to others. Some talk themselves out of support, believing that someone else is worse off and therefore more deserving of help. Others see peers who have been able to recover quickly without professional help as a sign that they can do the same.
These barriers are often what hold us back from getting the treatment we need. A study called the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Study conducted in England in 2007 found that only one in four people who had mental health problems were getting help. When the study was revisited in 2014, the number had risen to one in three. While this increase in numbers means we are moving in the right direction towards accessing mental health support, it also means that a majority of people are not receiving help. “The most common outcome, unfortunately, for people who develop mental health problems is that they struggle on with them. And at some point, they may reach a crisis point – they may get done for drunk driving or make a critical mistake at work – and that's when they seek help.”
Signs to look out for
Persistent, negative changes are what to look out for in yourself or others if you are worried about poor mental health and PTSD. Neil says, “It’s persistent negative changes over weeks and months, with a lack of positive futures and a lack of positive thoughts.” Some other red flags to be aware of:
Changes in sleeping pattern unexplained by external noise or other distractions
Changes in behaviour or temperament
Concern from other people asking, “are you ok?”
Lack of concentration
Inability to complete previously simple tasks
“In all these cases,” Neil says, “when you don't know if you've got a problem or not, that's when it's a good thing to talk to someone you trust.”
Early intervention and support is essential
Providing mental health support at the earliest opportunity is the solution. This helps to stop the individual from reaching a crisis point in which their trauma has developed and is causing further harm or distress. “The real challenge here for society,” Neil says, “Is how do you get people upstream? Because if we could support them at a point when things weren't so serious, the solutions would be much simpler. And may prevent the downward spiral from happening.”
The Royal College of Psychiatrists has a range of online resources on PTSD and mental health issues to help sufferers and their families better understand their condition. “What the resources aim to do is try and help you identify what's okay, what you can do to help look after yourself and others, and when to seek help. They paint a realistic picture of PTSD as a mental health problem which can be serious, but the good news is there are treatments out there that can make a difference.”
How can families help?
Research shows that loved ones and family members play a vital role in directing someone dealing with PTSD or another mental health issue towards the professional help they need. A US study by the American Psychological Association on interventions, known as CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training), demonstrates this with families whose loved one had a drug or alcohol problem. Healthcare professionals provided these families with communication skills and techniques to help move their loved one towards getting help. The study was later replicated with people suffering from PTSD. Researchers provided the same communication skills to the Concerned Significant Others (CSO) of military veterans dealing with PTSD to help them access professional support. The outcomes successfully showed that when a distressed individual seeks help, the whole family benefits. Neil says, “it's a really useful way of trying to give the loved one the skills to pick the right moment, and to have ways of not just nagging or shouting, but trying to motivate them, with the outcome being that they get help.” UK military charity, Help For Heroes, have since adopted these methods.
Neil shares his tips on when to broach the topic with a loved one: