Flashbacks, severe anxiety and nightmares are all symptoms of what is called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  This is normally triggered by a terrifying event your loved one may have witnessed or experienced.

If your loved one has witnessed or experienced a traumatic event, they may have difficulty adjusting and coping.  There is no specific time frame in which PTSD can develop: symptoms can start soon after an event, or in some cases may not be evident until years later. 


Signs your loved one might have PTSD are:

  • Re-living the traumatic event – unwanted and recurring memories as vivid images and nightmares, combined with intense reactions.

  • Being overly alert or wound up – sleeping difficulties, anger/ irritability, lack of concentration, being easily startled or constantly on the lookout for signs of danger.

  • Avoiding reminders of the event – deliberately avoiding activities, places, people, thoughts, feelings and/or conversations associated with the event.

  • Feeling emotionally numb – loss of interest in day-to-day activities, feeling cut off and detached from others, or feeling emotionally flat.

  • Intense feelings of helplessness and fear. 


It is important to note that stress and a lack of sleep will make it more difficult to see the situation clearly and be able to make rational or positive decisions such as seeking treatment.


Steps you can take to help your loved one with PTSD:

  • Talk to them and acknowledge spoken feelings.

  • Encourage treatment and formal support to be sought.

  • Encourage ‘re-joining the world’ and getting back into a normal routine.

  • Be patient.

  • Encourage them to spend time with family and friends.

  • Offer to go to the doctor with them and take notes on what the doctor says to help them keep track of recommended treatments, actions or medications.

  • Make a crisis plan so there are agreed ways to identify when an issue arises and steps that will be taken to help your loved one cope.


How can I help my love one to overcome PTSD?


The following techniques are helpful ways to manage symptoms:

  • Relaxation: Deep breathing exercises or yoga may aid relaxation and help reduce anxiety.

  • Exercise: Regular exercise will release endorphins, which may help reduce anxiety.

  • Mindfulness: Being mindful of how they are feeling and focusing on the moment may help monitor and reduce hypervigilant behaviour.

  • Communication: Expressing how they are feeling to others and being willing to accept feedback about times they may have overreacted can be helpful.

  • Objectivity: Looking for objective evidence as to whether there is a need to be so ‘on guard’, may help people monitor and manage their hypervigilant behaviour.

  • Encourage engagement with a psychologist.


Helping someone manage PTSD is not easy.  It takes patience and a lot of understanding.  You need some help to manage your own stress levels and ensure you are taking good care of yourself.

  • Take care of your own health with good quality sleep, exercising regularly, and eating well.

  • Keep doing the things you like to do. It’s important to recharge and to have things to look forward to, like spending time with friends.

  • Set boundaries for yourself. Talk with your loved one about how you’ll let them know if you need a break and plan for how they can get support during those times.

  • Consider seeing a counsellor or therapist about how to manage stress.


For more information on PTSD click on the links below:


If you are concerned about the wellbeing of your loved one or need advice, contact the independent counselling service (Employee Assistance Program), free to WA Police Force personnel and their immediate family on 1300 687 327 (available 24/7), or the email the WA Police Force Family Support Email or call 6229 5615 (8am to 4pm, Monday to Friday).


WA Police Force is committed to the wellbeing and privacy of our workforce. At no time will personal or medical information of any personnel be available.


If you have urgent concerns, the following contacts are available 24/7: