Traumatic events are marked by a sense of horror, helplessness, serious injury or the threat of serious injury or death. They affect survivors, rescue workers and the friends and relatives of victims who are involved. People who witness the event firsthand or, even, in the news – TV, newspapers, radio, and the internet – may also be impacted.
Teachers lead children from Sandy Hook Elementary School after shootings on December 14, 2012.
In recent years, Americans have experienced many mass traumatic events, including school shootings such as Columbine and Sandy Hook, hurricanes like Katrina and Sandy and tornadoes and terrorist attacks such as those on 9/11. On a smaller scale, people experience traumatic events in their everyday lives such as accidents (traffic, car or physical accidents), assault (including physical or sexual assault, muggings, robberies or family violence) and witnessing terrible tragedies such as a worksite accident resulting in serious injury or death.
It is important to know that people differ in how they react to traumatic events and to how the events impact them:
- One person may perceive an event as deeply traumatic, while another does not.
- A history of exposure to a traumatic event may make some people more susceptible to later traumatic events, while others become more resilient as a result.
If you find that you are having trouble getting through your daily routine and are feeling a high level of stress following an event, you may need help to cope. Sometimes, the stress can be too much to handle alone.
Ask for help if:
- You are not able to take care of yourself or your children.
- You are not able to concentrate on or do your job.
- You use alcohol or drugs to escape from your problems.
- You feel sad or depressed for more than two weeks.
- You think about suicide.
The LHSFNA has a Mental Health Resources webpage that includes a special section for veterans. Your LIUNA health & welfare fund may provide mental health benefits and may have a Member Assistance Program (MAP) that can be of service.
These are links to national trauma service sites:
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
- Coping with a Disaster or Traumatic Event (CDC)
- Healing Emotional and Psychological Trauma (Helpguide.org)
These links for kids, parents and adults are geared more specifically to school shootings and violence:
- American Psychological Association – Helping Your Children Manage Distress in the Aftermath of a Shooting
- American Academy of Pediatrics – Resources to Help Parents, Children and Others Cope in the Aftermath of School Shootings
- American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry – Children and Grief
[Jamie Becker is the LHSFNA’s Associate Director, Health Promotion.]