PSYCHOLOGICAL FIRST AID
Prepared by Trauma Aid UK & the EMDR Association UK & Ireland specifically for those affected by the recent attacks
SYMPTOMS FOLLOWING A TRAUMATIC EVENT
When horrible things happen, it is normal for people to experience lots of different emotions including confusion, disorientation, worry, anxiety, intrusive thoughts, images and sensations.
It is normal to feel shock, sorrow, disbelief, fear, anger, numbness, irritability guilt and shame. It is also common to experience physical or body sensations, such as fatigue, headache, muscle tension, stomach ache and experience other physical symptoms like an exaggerated startle response, increase heart rate and difficulties sleeping. Anticipatory anxiety and fears about the future are also common, especially amongst children – alongside the unanswerable questions as to how and why such a terrible thing could have happened.
Some people may feel they need to be alone much of the time – others may feel the need to have someone close by. Children especially may worry about bad things happening in the future or being away from family members.
What is important to remember is that our brains are hard-wired to experience these responses to sudden and unexpected traumatic events as a way of helping us to make sense of them and to survive.
Your brain is doing what it does best – keeping you safe from the overwhelming reality of what has just happened.
It will take time to process events. For now, it is important to just be patient with ourselves…
What happened will never be ‘okay’ … but with time and patience, we can recover and start to feel ‘okay’…
Remembering that our family and friends are precious and important – spending as much time with them that we can. Remembering those who did not survive with compassion and love, without forgetting those who did survive.
Taking each day as it comes – remembering that priorities may have shifted, with the trauma we are recovering from
Not watching the news to excess, if it causes deep distress. Protecting ourselves and children from being over-exposed to media reports which may be graphic and distressing.
Trying to maintain as normal a schedule as possible; Ensuring we get adequate rest and eating regularly. Scheduling and engaging in positive distracting activities (such as hobbies or sports).
Focusing on something practical that you can do right now to manage initial feelings of overwhelm, as and when those feelings occur. Using relaxation methods (breathing slowly and deeply, soothing music etc.) to help manage feelings.
IF SYMPTOMS BECOME WORSE
For many people, symptoms will naturally reduce over time. However, for a small percentage of the population, this does not happen. In such cases, seeking psychological support either by talking to friends and family or support agencies or by joining a support group can be helpful.
If symptoms become significantly worse, it is possible to accessing psychological help through a referral from GP’s or Education to a recommended therapy for symptoms of trauma.
The National Institute of Clinical Excellent (NICE) who advises the NHS on treatments to be offered recommends Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR) as one evidence based treatment for symptoms of trauma. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends EMDR above Trauma Focussed CBT for trauma in Children, as EMDR is seen as being gentler and does not require the need for talking about the distressing memories in detail.
Self-Referral to trained therapists accredited with the EMDR Association UK & Ireland is also possible through the organisation’s website: www.emdrassociation.org.uk
In addition, the EMDR Association UK & Ireland in association with Trauma Aid UK will be able to link people with clinicians offering pro-bono early intervention EMDR therapy (either group or individual) for those affected by natural disasters and terrorist attacks in Europe.
Trauma Aid UK website : www.traumaaiduk.org