You may find this page helpful if you have been involved in or affected by a traumatic incident.
It provides information on how you may feel in the days and months ahead, and helps understand and have more control of your experience.
It also provides specific information on supporting children after a traumatic event.
What you can do to help yourself or others
If you have been involved in a major incident, your experience is likely to be a very personal one.
Remember, adjustment is a gradual process, and everyone reacts differently.
Recognise it may take some time before you feel anything. At first you may feel numb and the incident may seem unreal. Over time, with support from family and friends, these feelings are likely to pass. In the meantime….
- Take time out to get sufficient sleep (your normal amount), exercise, rest, relax, and eat regularly and healthily.
- Talk to others about your experience and how you are feeling
- Keep your life as normal as possible. Try to reduce outside demands on you and don’t take on extra responsibilities for the time being.
- Be more careful around the home and drive more carefully - accidents are more common after a stressful event.
- Make time to go to a place where you feel safe and calmly go over what happened in your mind. Don’t force yourself to do this.
- Bottle up your feelings. Talk about what happened with someone you trust.
- Expect the memories to disappear straight away.
- Get embarrassed by your feelings and thoughts, or those of others. They are normal reactions to a stressful event.
- Avoid people you trust.
You might need help if you have been experiencing any of the following reactions for several weeks and there is no sign of them getting better:
- Wanting to talk about what happened and feel you don’t have anyone to share your feelings with.
- Finding that you are easily startled and agitated.
- Vivid images of what you saw and intense emotional reactions to them.
- Disturbed sleep, disturbing thoughts preventing you sleeping or dreams and nightmares.
- Experience of overwhelming emotions that you feel unable to cope with or experience changes in mood for no obvious reason.
- Tiredness, loss of memory, palpitations (rapid heartbeat), dizziness, shaking, aching muscles, nausea and diarrhoea, poor concentration, breathing difficulties or a choking feeling in your throat and chest.
- Feeling emotionally numb.
- Relationships seem to be suffering since the incident.
- Worry about your alcohol or drug use since the incident.
- Your performance at work since the incident.
- Someone close to you tells you they are concerned about you.
Where to find more help
- Contact your GP for support or, if your GP surgery is closed and you feel you can’t wait until it re-opens, call NHS 24 free on 111
These websites also have more information on post traumatic reactions.
Supporting children after a traumatic event
If a child has witnessed or experienced a traumatic event it is quite natural for them to be stressed. They may be very upset and/or frightened. This should not usually last beyond four weeks.
If symptoms of being very upset continue beyond four weeks, this may indicate Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and it is important to seek help for your child.
These are typical reactions after a traumatic event:
- Memories or pictures of the event unexpectedly popping into their mind
- Feeling as if it is actually happening again
- Playing or drawing about the event time and time again
- Not wanting to think or talk about the event
- Avoiding anything that might remind them of the event
- Getting angry or upset more easily
- Not being able to concentrate
- Not being able to sleep
- Being more jumpy and being on the lookout for danger
- Becoming more clingy with parents or carers
- Physical complaints such as stomach aches or headaches
- Temporarily losing abilities (e.g. feeding and toileting)
- Problems at school
How to Help Your Child:
- Try to keep things as normal as possible: keeping to your usual routine and doing normal activities as much as you can, will help your child feel safer more quickly
- Be available to talk to your child as and when they are ready. If it is difficult for you to do this, ask a trusted adult such as a family member or teacher to help
- Try to help your child understand what has happened by giving a truthful explanation that is appropriate for their age. This may help reduce feelings of confusion, anger, sadness and fear. It can also help correct misunderstandings that might, for example, lead the child to feel that they are to blame. They can also help re-assure the child that although bad things can happen, they don’t need to be scared all the time
- In the event of a death, particularly a traumatic one, it can be difficult to accept the reality of what has happened. It is important to be patient, simple and honest in response to questions about a death. Some children, for example, will seem to accept a death but then repeatedly ask when that person is coming back. It is important to be patient and clear when dealing with these questions, for example, it is better to say “John has died” than “John has gone on a journey”.
What to look for:
- Children experiencing PTSD might show that they think differently either about themselves or other people.
- Blame themselves or show lowered self-esteem
- Describe thinking that they are a bad person or talk about thoughts of deserving bad things to happen to them
- Show less trust in other people and be less able to experience a sense of safety
- Experience overwhelming feelings in the form of shame, sadness and fear
- Avoid situations that they fear could increase their emotional response – i.e. might make them feel more frightened, threatened, ashamed or reminded of the event.
What to do:
- If you have any concerns about your child, it is important to seek help via your GP. There are some very effective treatments including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for children and young people experiencing the effects of trauma.