This Is the 1 Crucial Thing You Can Do to Help Someone Through a Traumatic Event

Given the uneasy world that we currently live in, there are a lot of people going through traumatic, life-altering events. More than ever, many people are rushing to help those in need, whether they are suffering from a natural disaster or heinous act of violence. It is possible that the traumatized individuals may develop post-traumatic stress disorder, and need more help than usual to cope with the aftermath. Here is how to help someone through a traumatic event — and the one crucial thing to remember.

For starters, learn everything you can

A therapist comforts a patient while on a couch in an office.

Trauma can change people’s lives … but you can be there for them. | Wavebreakmedia/iStock/Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs gives helpful tips for helping a family member suffering from PTSD. The site’s first bullet point is to learn everything you can about how traumatic events and subsequent PTSD affects people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlights responses to traumatic events, and gives some helpful tips on how to help someone cope.

Be supportive, without being overbearing …

A woman is crying outside while resting her head on her hands.

Giving space is just as important as lending an ear. | Katarzyna Bialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images

It’s essential to offer an understanding ear to someone suffering through a traumatic event. The key, however, is to recognize when he or she may not want to talk about it. The Department of Veteran Affairs highlights being supportive, but also respecting boundaries. “Tell your loved one you want to listen and that you also understand if he or she doesn’t feel like talking.” The CDC also recommends talking to the survivor in a person-to-person manner, and not an expert-to-victim manner.

… and recognize when the survivor is too withdrawn

Sad woman lying on the couch at night.

They might be spending too much time alone. | Tommaso79/iStock/Getty Images

The National Center for Biotechnology Information points out that severe withdrawal and “emotional numbing” are symptoms of PTSD. These symptoms “include inability to have any feelings, feeling detached from other people,” as well as a loss of interest in activities. A medical professional may have to intervene if isolation becomes too severe.

Encouraging both physical activity and rest

Sad teenage girl looking out the window.

An important time for self-care. | Max-kegfire/iStock/Getty Images

Helping a victim clear their head helps them deal with trauma. And exercise is a great tool for clearing the head. Psychology Today explains that research has connected aerobic exercise to the parts of the brain that deal with traumatic stress. Simply going for a walk can release the chemicals in the brain that combat stress hormones. Plus, exercise helps improve sleep — and it is recommended that someone going through trauma get as much rest as he or she can.

Promote social connection

A man stares out of a sunny window as he bites his nails.

The presence of family and friends are key. |

It’s important for a trauma victim to have a support group around them to keep from being too withdrawn. Organizing familial or friendly get-togethers can help establish a support system to help the traumatized survivor not feel alone. Getting support from outreach programs that connect trauma survivors with each other can also help.

Remember, trauma can have a long-term impact

Dog Visiting Young Happy Female Patient In Hospital

Everyone will have their own way of coping. | Monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

Harvard Health Publishing┬ámakes a crucial point — not all trauma victims want professional help. But the best way to help them through is to always have aid available. “Not all victims of a trauma want treatment, and that should be respected because most victims recover on their own with the support of family and friends,” the site explains. If treatment is the preferred option, however, “health professionals should attend to a victim’s basic physical and emotional needs first, providing reassurance and emphasizing coping.”

Trauma also impacts caregivers

Male psychologist making notes

You might find yourself changing as well. | Shironosov/iStock/Getty Images

Individuals that are in close contact with trauma patients can develop “secondary trauma” and experience symptoms of PTSD. If you are helping someone cope with trauma, it’s important to take care of yourself as well. The Department of Veterans Affairs strongly suggests taking time for yourself, maintaining an outside life, and taking close care of your mental and physical health.