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Advice for Staff affected by a Major Incident or Traumatic Event

How You Might Be Affected By A Major Incident or Traumatic Event.

After any major incident, it is normal to experience a number of stress reactions that may continue for some weeks. These reactions are normal, understandable and usually reduce gradually over time.

How You Might Feel Immediately After The Event.

Shock

  • Feeling stunned, dazed or numb
  • Feeling cut off from what is going on around you and your feelings


Denial

  • Finding it difficult to accept that this has happened
  • Behaving as if it hasn't happened

Over several hours or days, the feelings of shock gradually fade and other reactions may take their place.

Reactions commonly experienced within the first few weeks of a traumatic event.

  • Tearfulness and sadness.
  • Feeling frightened.
  • Feeling numb or dreamlike.
  • Having unpleasant thoughts and memories of the event 'popping' into your head, accompanied by strong emotions. Sometimes these memories are so strong that it feels as if the event is actually happening again.
  • Nightmares about the event.
  • Reluctance to discuss the event (or sometimes wanting to talk about it all the time).
  • Having difficulty sleeping.
  • Feeling jumpy, anxious or restless.
  • Feeling helpless.
  • Feeling angry or irritable.
  • Wanting to avoid people, places or activities that remind you of the event.
  • Loss of interest in activities you previously enjoyed.
  • Questioning why it happened and whether or not you could have done something about it.
  • Having trouble concentrating and remembering things.
  • Feeling guilty or to blame for some aspect of the trauma.
  • Feeling ashamed that you did not act in the way you would have liked to.
  • Concentration and memory problems.
  • Tiredness.
  • Headaches and bodily pain.
  • Young people often become unsettled in their behaviour. They may act more aggressive or fearful than usual. They may become clingy and demanding. They may also 're-enact' the trauma in their play.

What can I do that is helpful?

Taking each day at a time is essential after any traumatic event. It is important to establish a sense of safety and security. It is helpful to try to:

  • Be patient with yourself - it may take weeks or months to learn to live with what has happened.
  • Start to begin working on immediate personal and family priorities to help you and your loved ones preserve or regain some sense of hope, purpose and self-esteem.
  • Ask for support from family, friends, and peers, religious or social groups who may be able to help to support you through this difficult time.
  • Be involved with other survivors - You may find it helpful to spend time with others who have been through the same experience as you and to go to memorial services or funerals.
  • Take good care of yourself physically, including eating well, exercising regularly, reducing alcohol and/or drug use and getting enough sleep to reduce stress and prevent physical illness.
  • Try to relax (e.g., take long hot soothing baths) and take time for yourself.
  • Talk it over when you feel ready and comfortable to do so. Don't worry if you get upset or cry while doing this.
  • Try to focus on what's important to you and your family today.
  • Take care - after a trauma people are more likely to have accidents. Be careful with regards to driving and around the home.

What would not be helpful?

  • Don't bottle up your feelings - strong feelings are normal and bottling them up will make you feel worse. Let yourself talk and don't worry if you cry.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol - this can help numb your feelings but can stop you from coming to terms with what has happened.
  • Don't make any major life changes - your judgement may not be at it's best and you may make decisions that you later regret.

How would I decide if I need professional help?

Most people who have encountered a traumatic event find that their symptoms subside over time. However, reactions and recovery times vary for different people. If your symptoms do not improve over time and continue to concern you (e.g., because they are causing difficulties in your relationships or in your work) it may be beneficial to seek professional support.


Where do I find help?

The Employee Assistance Programme provides 24hr access to trained counsellors on 0800 243458 and these documents, aimed at managers and employees offer guidance on typical emotional reactions one may experience – and how to manage these reactions.

Guide for Managers
Guide for Individuals

Your GP can give you advice and refer you to someone experienced in working with these difficulties if you both feel this would be helpful. However, if he or she has had no training in disasters they may be unsure how to help you.

Alternatively, you may wish to contact a helpline for advice:

Disaster Action - Charity whose members have all been bereaved in or have survived a disaster. Shares common experience and provides support and guidance to those affected by disasters.
Telephone: 01483 799 066 (telephone/answer phone)
http://www.disasteraction.org.uk/

Cruse - Bereavement Care - Offers counselling, advice and opportunities to meet other bereaved people throughout the UK.
Telephone: 0870 167 1677 (Monday - Friday 9.30am - 5pm).
http://www.crusebereavementcare.org.uk/

Victim Support - Offers practical help, advice and emotional support to both victims and their families following crime.
Victim Support line: 0845 30 30 900
Telephone (National Office): (020) 7735 9166 (Monday - Friday 9.00am - 5.30pm)
http://www.victimsupport.org.uk/

The Samaritans - Will refer callers to local branches (listed in telephone books) offering a 24-hour service to all those going through a personal crisis.
Telephone: 08457 90 90 90 (24 hour helpline)
http://www.samaritans.org.uk/

Assist Trauma Care - offers telephone counselling and support to individuals and families in the aftermath of trauma.
Telephone: 01788 560800 (Helpline)

With thanks to the Traumatic Stress Clinic, Camden & Islington Mental Health
and Social Care Trust