I’m a mental health YouTuber. This means that I make videos with the purpose of clearing up mental health misconceptions, starting important conversations around mental health, and, most importantly, to reach out and help people suffering from mental health issues. I want people who are hurting to feel less alone. Sharing my own mental health stories on YouTube and listening to my viewers, who are so generous with their stories, both make me so much more aware when I see someone in person who is suffering from mental health issues.
I’m not a trained professional, but knowing the symptoms of mental health issues like PTSD is all it takes to become a helper to someone who needs it.
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, can occur when a person is subject to an event or series of events that he or she finds to be traumatic. The traumatic event then accumulates into a number of symptoms that can vary from person to person and even day to day in the same person. Sometimes these symptoms severely impair the life of someone who is affected by them; this includes the friends and family members of the sufferer.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that PTSD afflicts almost 31 percent of Vietnam veterans, as many as 10 percent of Gulf War (Desert Storm) veterans and 11 percent of veterans of the war in Afghanistan.
Although PTSD was first observed in war Veterans back in 1890, it is important to recognize that absolutely anybody can fall victim to post-traumatic stress. Like all other mental health disorders, PTSD does not discriminate and the popular belief that PTSD only effects war veterans is one of many misconceptions about the disorder.
But PTSD is a prevalent issue among war Veterans, making Veteran’s Day a perfect day to discuss PTSD and its symptoms and ways to help and support those who suffer from it.
For me, these ways to help are found on social media.
Personally and unlike larger charities and organizations, I use YouTube and other social media as platforms to reach out and offer support to those in need of mental health help.
Most of my videos stick to the topic of self harm and anxiety, you may be surprised at how many people engage in self destructive behavior such as cutting and burning themselves as a result of having PTSD.
I’ve found that even just talking to someone experiencing flashbacks can help, not about the event but about something to distract them as even day-to-day circumstances can trigger and bring back traumatic memories.
I’ve also found that some sufferers like to talk it out, sometimes unexpectedly.
It was just the other week that I took a homeless man out of the cold and into McDonald’s where I told him to order whatever he’d like and when we sat down he began to tell me about himself after getting a glance of my arm—which is scarred.
Seeing my scars must have made him feel comfortable talking to me, a stranger, and he told me how he’d served in the army and developed anger problems as a result of PTSD, which led to a divorce, and then to homelessness and a downward spiral of depression and self-harm.
Kim Ahearn Young, the head of the Rapid Response Team of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, recently made a video with VProud.tv explaining signs and symptoms of PTSD and how it is treatable. So many people think that it’s not. But just like the man who clearly needed to tell his story at McDonald’s proved, talk therapy is one way to rehabilitate from PTSD. Medication and yoga are two other things that Kim recommends.
Unfortunately, not everybody is so open about their stories and many remain in denial or truly don’t know what they’re suffering from, which is why I think it is so important for friends and family to learn about the symptoms of PTSD and look out for them in their loved ones, and maybe even in strangers who are out in the cold or who reach out to them online.
PTSD does not discriminate. It can affect absolutely anyone. Overcoming it could mean undergoing a cocktail of therapies, but the good news is that it is possible to overcome. The solution to this issue is obviously to not ignore it, but to address it, and to become as aware as possible of those around us and what they’re experiencing. Especially those, like veterans, who are vulnerable and those who are closest to us. If we can take care of each other via a big organization like Kim’s, or even via YouTube like me, we can all do our part to learn more about PTSD, its symptoms, and how to be the ones to help.
Laura Lejeune is a mental health YouTuber whose goal is to be the (Internet) big sister she never had. For years, Laura struggled with anxiety, depression, and agoraphobia and was failed by the NHS’s mental health services on multiple occasions. It was YouTubers who helped her and she’s following in their footsteps. You can find Laura on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and VProud.tv.