In the immediate aftermath of a major incident our body’s automatic survival reactions will take over and may react in unexpected ways, e.g. we may freeze, run away, push past others, urinate, have an out of body experience.
Sometimes being nearby, knowing someone there, seeing news images, hearing stories about it or being part of the emergency response is enough to trigger a response in us.
In the first few weeks it may be common to:
- Have problems sleeping/feel tired
- Feel irritable/jumpy or numb
- Increase your alcohol intake or smoking more
- Have intrusive images or thoughts
- Feel unsafe or mistrusting
- Avoid places, people etc.
- Feel guilt
- Have poor concentration
- Have fleeting thoughts of harming self or others.
What can help
- Make sure you get plenty of sleep and rest.
- Establish a routine
- Eat well
- Take a walk or go to a place you feel safe
- Stay connected to people. Share what happened if you want and if not, talk to people about everyday things. Maybe connect with other people who were there, e.g. go to memorial services
- Accept strong feelings, unusual experiences, feeling empty or numb, impaired judgement and clumsiness as normal and reassure yourself on this.
- Be careful at home, when driving or operating machinery – accidents are more likely to happen following a stressful experience
How to know if you need a GP referral for more specialist help, support or therapy
You may want to approach your GP and seek specialist help and support if you experience any of the below:
- Feeling persistently suicidal or want to hurt someone
- If after a month or so: you can’t function at home or work; you are swamped with anxiety, anger or low mood; are having unusual relationship problems; have severe nightmares or still relive the event; feel numb or disconnected; blame yourself or feel ashamed; your drug or alcohol use is out of control.
- People close to you tell you they are worried about you.
How to support someone you know
Connect: The person may need time to be alone but keep trying to connect with them on everyday activities.
Listen: to their feelings but don’t ask for details of what happened and don’t offer advice.
Ask: Don’t assume what they need, it might be different from what we think.
Practical: Make them a meal, offer them a lift. They may also need some flexibility at work.
Was this information useful? Please let us know by clicking here.