Seeking help for post-traumatic stress disorder
Everyone will respond differently to traumatic experiences. Feelings of fear, sadness, anger and grief are natural human responses. Sometimes the feelings of fear and anguish stay with us for a long time and we need help to get through it. There are lots of people to help. Getting timely support might be a factor in preventing your normal stress reactions from developing into PTSD. So seek help early. It’s also important to know that there are effective treatments for PTSD, and you can recover.
Some people may have suicidal thoughts when things seem too hard and painful. If you feel that life is not worth living, it’s really important to seek immediate help. With help, you can overcome these thoughts and stay safe.
Help is available
If your life is in danger call emergency services:
- Australia – 000
- New Zealand – 111
You are not alone. There is always someone to hear your pain and problems, and to help you keep safe.
Lifeline Counselling (24 /7)
- Australia – 13 1114
- New Zealand – 0800 543 354
Men’s Line Australia – 1300 78 99 78
Kids Help Line – 1800 55 1800
Suicide call back service – 1300 659 467
You can also:
- talk to someone you trust
- visit a hospital emergency department
- contact your GP, a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist
There are things you can do that may help you cope with a traumatic event including:
- seeking social support
- talking to family, friends, colleagues
- talking to your GP or a mental health professional
Getting timely support might be a factor in preventing your normal stress reactions from developing into PTSD. So talk about it early. PTSD is not a sign of personal weakness. Everyone is unique and will respond differently when exposed to traumatic events.
Start by talking to your GP
Seeking help is the first step in getting effective treatment for PTSD. A good first step is to see your General Practitioner (GP). GPs can help find the best ways to deal with how you’re feeling.
A GP who is confident in treating mental health issues has lots of good resources and strategies, and they can connect you with mental health professionals.
Your GP can:
- listen to your concerns
- check for any other health issues
- talk to you about types of treatment
- prescribe medication
- suggest lifestyle changes
- refer you to professionals specially trained in mental health, such as counsellors, psychiatrists and psychologists.
Your GP can prepare a Mental Health Treatment Plan, and discuss whether you might be able to get a Medicare rebate for psychology treatments.
If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your own GP, find another one. It’s really important that you feel OK about talking about how you’re feeling with your GP.
If you’re having trouble finding a good GP try calling some other general practices near you and ask whether any doctors there have a strong interest in mental health.
Other professionals who can help you
Psychiatrists, psychologists and counsellors are specially trained to provide help for PTSD and other mental health problems. You need to get a referral from your GP to see a psychiatrist. You don’t need a GP referral to see a psychologist, but getting one means that your GP may be able to organise a Mental Health Care Plan for you, which can entitle you to Medicare rebates for some psychologist sessions. Some social workers, occupational therapists, mental health nurses and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers are also trained in mental health.
- seeking social support
When you see a mental health professional, you should expect a number of things, including:
- confidentiality, empathy and understanding
- sufficient time to express your thoughts and feelings
- a thorough assessment of your mental health
- if the diagnosis is clear, you should be told whether you have PTSD or another mental health condition
- a management strategy.
If more than one mental health professional is involved in giving you treatment, there should be clear lines of responsibility for each professional.
For more information about what to expect from a health professional go to our seeking help for depression page.
Black Dog Clinic
Our Psychology Clinic offers psychological services for a range of mental illnesses including PTSD.
myCompass is a free online self-help service to promote resilience and wellbeing. myCompass was developed by us here at Black Dog and is based on a range of psychological therapies.
Relationships Australia provides an online counselling service for relationship problems (in addition to its face-to-face counselling services). The online service allows you to 'chat' privately and securely with an online counsellor. Online counsellors are qualified and experienced employees of Relationships Australia NSW.
Free or low cost counselling may be available through universities, community centres, charities, and religious organisations.
e-Mental health tools are useful psychological therapies that you can use online. All you need is access to a computer, tablet or a smart phone.
You can use e-mental health tools from home. They are also very helpful for people who live in rural and remote areas, or people with limited mobility or transport.
Many e-mental health tools are self-paced, and you can also use them in conjunction with the work you are doing with your GP, psychologist or counsellor.
e-Mental health programs benefit from a level of practitioner involvement.
The e-mental health programs we recommend have been researched, developed and tested in Australia. They include:
Experts at St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney developed the THISWAYUP e-mental health programs. They include an online PTSD treatment course for people who’ve been feeling symptoms for more than 4 weeks after a traumatic event.
The Black Dog Institute developed the myCompass program as an interactive self-help service to promote resilience and wellbeing for all Australians.
OnTrack offers free access to online programs, information, quizzes and advice to support the Australian community in achieving mental and physical health and wellbeing.
Head to health has more information on e-mental health programs and support services.
Resources for young people
Online resources for young people include:
Developed by Black Dog Institute, BITE BACK is an ever-changing space which aims to improve the wellbeing and mental fitness of 12–18 year olds, based on the principles of positive psychology.
eHeadspace is a confidential, free, anonymous, secure space where 15–25 year olds can chat, email or speak with qualified youth mental health professionals.
ReachOut is a mental health website for people under 25.
Youth beyondblue provides mental health education and links to phone support for 12–25 year olds.