You may notice that things are not right for your loved one who served in combat, Do you know what to say? You might try to talk to him or her but find that when you do, things don't go well. When family or friends see a Veteran having difficulty adjusting to post-deployment life, it can be hard to know how to help.
What is normal after deployment?
If you notice a difference in your loved one after return from combat, it might be worth talking about. "Normal" is different for everyone, but there are signs your Veteran may need help. Some examples are sleep problems, feeling down or depressed, becoming easily angered or withdrawn, difficulties at work or in personal relationships, excessive drinking or drug use, or reckless driving.
We know each other so well. Why can't we seem to talk about this?
It can be hard to tell someone you think they need to seek help. It can be difficult to say what you mean if you are worried. Also, it can be hard for someone to listen if he or she is anxious, or even angry.
What can I do or say to make sure he or she gets help?
Mental health care is helpful only if your Service Member or Veteran makes that decision for himself or herself. Someone can accept making changes only when he or she truly feels there is a choice. Here are some tips for you to make it easier for your loved one to seek care:
- Sometimes encouraging a loved one over time can make it easier for him or her to decide to take action.
- Express your support or concern. Try saying, "I know things are not going how you like right now, but know that I'd like to help."
- "Demanding" someone seek help can backfire, making him or her less likely to go for help.
- Avoid giving threats. Try not to say, "You need to go for help, or else."
- Talk about choices. You can say, "I know it's your call whether you go to see somebody, but if there's something I can do to help, let me know."
Coaching into Care
VA has a program called Coaching Into Care to help family and friends of returning Veterans. A coach will help you figure out what to say to your Veteran and to help get him or her into care if needed.
Each family is different. Some people may need just one call, and others may find it helpful to have several calls with us over a few weeks. Coaching Into Care is free, and helps you make progress toward the goal of getting your Veteran to seek help by:
- Answering questions about the type of services available at the VA
- Arranging for a specialist to speak with you on the phone about how to talk with your Service Member or Veteran
Coaching Into Care takes the privacy of you and your Veteran very seriously. Coaches are aware of your concerns about the risk of getting your Veteran upset or into trouble. Every aspect of your care - from first call to services - are kept private, except in cases where we act to protect the lives of you, your Veteran, loved ones, or others.
Call Coaching Into Care: 1-888-823-7458
From the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, US Department of Veterans Affairs. www.ptsd.va.gov.