National PTSD Awareness Day, on June 27th, serves as a critical reminder of the mental health challenges faced by many, especially our veterans. PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, affects a significant portion of Australian veterans, with studies showing that around 8.3% of Australian veterans experience PTSD compared to 5.2% of the general Australian population. This disparity highlights the need for greater awareness and support for our veterans and their families.

What is PTSD and What are Triggers?

PTSD is a mental health condition triggered by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Symptoms can include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts about the event. A crucial aspect of managing PTSD involves understanding triggers—stimuli that cause distressing symptoms to surface.

Triggers vary significantly among individuals. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare notes the complexity of gathering accurate data on stress and trauma due to the varied and personal nature of responses. However, a trigger is broadly understood as a situation—spoken, witnessed, heard, or experienced—that evokes a significant emotional reaction.

Identifying Your Triggers

Learning to recognise your triggers is an essential first step in managing PTSD. These triggers may be your triggers if you notice recurring distress in different social or work settings, during specific conversations, or around certain behaviours. To identify these patterns, consider keeping a journal. Ask yourself questions like, “What do I feel when I’m around this person?” or “This feeling of anxiety always occurs when X is discussed.” Over time, you may notice consistent patterns that reveal your triggers.

Managing Your Reactions

Understanding your triggers can help you manage your reactions more effectively. Triggers often stem from past experiences and may not be directly related to the current situation, causing distress. Recognising that your response is a result of past trauma rather than the present context can empower you to control your reactions. While you can’t always control external events, you can learn to manage how you respond to them. Professional help, such as therapy, can be invaluable in developing these skills.

Addressing Problematic Behaviours

For some, deeply ingrained trauma can lead to problematic behaviours like smoking, excessive drinking, or other forms of self-medication. These behaviours can be indicators of underlying stress and trauma. Repetitive patterns in relationships or marked introversion may also signal deeply rooted issues. While supportive friends and family are crucial, professional therapy provides a structured environment to explore and manage these deep-seated traumas.

Protective Strategies

Once you understand your triggers and reactions, you can develop strategies to protect yourself in triggering situations. These might include:


  • Removing Yourself: If possible, leave the triggering situation to regain composure.
  • Support System: Having a trusted person as a support buddy can provide immediate help. Establishing a code word or signal can discreetly communicate your need for support.
  • Therapeutic Techniques: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and other techniques can effectively manage your responses.
  • Today, many media sources provide trigger warnings to alert viewers about potentially distressing content. This practice can help you avoid situations that might cause a reaction. 

Building Resilience Through Self-Care

Building mental resilience is vital for managing PTSD. Self-care practices can strengthen your mental health foundation, making it easier to navigate daily challenges. Here are some self-care strategies:


  • Mindfulness and Meditation: Regular mindfulness or meditation practices can help calm your mind and reduce stress.
  • Physical Activity: Exercise, such as walking, yoga, or sports, can improve your mood and overall well-being.
  • Engaging in Hobbies: Pursuing activities you enjoy can provide a sense of purpose and pleasure.
  • Connecting with Loved Ones: Spending time with supportive family and friends can offer emotional support and reduce feelings of isolation.

Support is Available

The holiday season and other significant times of the year can be particularly challenging for those with PTSD. It’s crucial to remember that support is available, and reaching out for help is a sign of strength.

If you are experiencing symptoms of PTSD, contact your GP for a consultation. You can also contact Carry On at 03 9629 2648 for guidance. Lifeline is available at 13 11 14, and more information can be found at Beyond Blue. Veterans and their families can also seek the Australian Government’s Department of Veterans Affairs assistance. 

Understanding PTSD and learning to navigate triggers are essential steps towards building resilience and improving mental health. On this National PTSD Awareness Day, let’s honour our veterans by raising awareness, providing support, and fostering a compassionate community.