The shocking terrorist attack and mass murder in Manchester earlier this week has been felt around the world. Evil came again, this time targeting kids. Beautiful teenage girls enjoying their pop star in concert were innocent victims of sick people. The body count at writing this blog is 22 with over 50 injured, the reality is that thousands of family members and friends are impacted deeply and are suffering the effects of this atrocity, and probably will for the rest of their lives.
Trauma invaded their world!
In defining Trauma, Phoenix Australia - Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health says:
“Any event that involves experiencing or witnessing actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence has the potential to be traumatic. Almost everyone who experiences trauma will be emotionally affected, and there are many different ways in which people will respond. Most people will recover quite quickly with the help of family and friends. For some, the effects can be long-lasting.”
According to the website psychology.org.au, symptoms of trauma can be described as physical, cognitive (thinking), behavioural (things we do) and emotional. Here is a more detailed look at each.
· Excessive alertness, on the look-out for signs of danger
· Easily startled
· Disturbed sleep
· General aches and pains
· Intrusive thoughts and memories of the event
· Visual images of the event
· Poor concentration and memory
· Avoidance of places or activities that are reminders of the event
· Social withdrawal and isolation
· Loss of interest in normal activities
· Numbness and detachment
· Anger and irritability
· Anxiety and panic
There is a lot we can do after a traumatic experience to help us move forward. I couldn’t say it better than Pheonix Australia have so here in its entirety is their information which is so valuable and well written.
“Recovering from trauma doesn’t mean forgetting your experience or not feeling any emotional pain when reminded of the event. Recovery means becoming less distressed and having more confidence in your ability to cope as time goes on. To help yourself recover, try some of the ideas below."
- Even if you don’t feel like doing these things, they might help you to come to terms with the trauma and reduce some of the distress associated with it.
- Recognise that you have been through an extremely stressful event and it is normal to have an emotional reaction to it. Give yourself permission to feel rotten, but also remember your strengths. Even though it’s tough, you can deal with it.
- Look after yourself by getting plenty of rest (even if you can’t sleep) and regular exercise. Eat regular, well-balanced meals. Physical and mental health are closely linked, so taking care of one will help the other.
- Cut back on tea, coffee, chocolate, soft drink, and cigarettes. Your body is already ‘hyped up’ enough and these substances will only add to this.
- Try to avoid using drugs or alcohol to cope, as they can lead to more problems long term.
- Make time for relaxation, whether it’s listening to music or taking a bath – whatever works for you. It might be helpful to learn a relaxation technique like meditation, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, or breathing exercises.
- Plan your days and try to schedule at least one enjoyable or meaningful activity each day. Try making a timetable for each day, including some exercise, some work, and some relaxation.
- Get back to your normal routine as soon as possible, but take it easy. Don’t throw yourself into activities or work in an attempt to avoid painful thoughts or memories of the trauma. Tackle the things that need to be done a little bit at a time, and count each success.
- Try not to bottle up your feelings or block them out. Recurring thoughts, dreams and flashbacks are unpleasant, but they are normal, and will decrease with time.
- Avoid making major life decisions such as moving house or changing jobs in the days and weeks after the traumatic event. On the other hand, make as many smaller, daily decisions as possible, such as what you want to eat or what film you’d like to see. This can help you to feel more in control of your life.
- Spend time with people you care about, even if you don’t want to talk about your experience. Sometimes you will want to be alone, and that’s OK too, but try not to become too isolated.
- Talk about your feelings to someone who will understand, if you feel able to do so. Talking things through is part of the natural healing process and will help you to accept what has happened. As you start to feel better, you may even wish to provide support to others who have been through similar situations.
- Write about your feelings if you feel unable to talk about them.
- Keep informed (about the event you experienced) through media and other information sources, but don’t overdo it. Try to avoid repeated viewing of disaster or trauma scenes.
- Give yourself time to re-evaluate. A traumatic event can affect the way you see the world, your life, goals, and relationships. Again, talking this through with others might help.
If you’ve tried these strategies and things still aren’t improving after a couple of weeks, or if you are having trouble coping with work or with relationships, talk to your GP. Your GP can assist and refer you to services and professionals that can help.”
People who have experienced trauma can be helped by family, friends and professionals.
Sadly and unexpectedly trauma can invade our private world from emotional, physical or sexual abuse, war, natural disasters, divorce, terrorism, serious illness and more. As I say repeatedly in these blogs, you can learn to live well with grief and trauma; it takes time, support, time, information, education and more time, but it is absolutely possible.
By Steve Morrison