But the good news is that the symptoms of PTSD and depression can be significantly lessened (and perhaps even eliminated) when there is an early diagnosis and sufficient support/education. To find out if you (or someone you love) may have PTSD, you can do a self-evaluation here: http://healmyptsd.com/education/do-i-have-ptsd. Michele Rosenthal’s website “Heal My PTSD” is a wonderful resource with lots of information. Of course, an online evaluation is no substitute for your doctor or psychologist’s professional diagnosis. However, it is a good place to start as you begin gathering information.
In addition to contacting your doctor, there are other strategies you can implement if you think your preemie/NICU experience is leading you down the road of depression/PTSD. While your little one is still in the NICU, you can immediately begin practicing Kangaroo Care. Kangaroo Care involves skin-to-skin contact with your baby for extended periods of time. It is not only good for the baby’s health and development, but it can also be very healing for the parents as they develop a special bond with the baby through touch.
Another extremely helpful activity to combat depression/PTSD is finding a support group. In today’s technological world, support can be found in countless places. There are groups on Facebook, blogs and websites, in-person support groups at local hospitals or other facilities, and even call-in support groups. You can also ask a NICU nurse to refer you to a social worker, chaplain, or counselor. In addition, you may be able to find good support from your family and friends, as well as your local family of faith. Sometimes just airing out our feelings to a listening ear is sufficient to ease our emotional distress; other times we need more individualized support from a professional or someone who has been in circumstances like ours. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help from more than one source, until you get the help you need.
As NICU parents seek help from others to deal with their PTSD, they can also implement various stress-reducing (self-care) techniques themselves. Some of these include deep breathing, journaling/blogging, writing a letter to the baby, and taking a
Every NICU parent experiences stress. It’s unavoidable. However, there are many cases where that stress combines with other factors to create a more serious emotional situation like PTSD. When this happens, the parent needs help. Everyone heals at a different pace, but hopefully with more education and support we will see preemie/NICU parents overcoming their symptoms of depression and PTSD much more quickly.