Coping with Mass Violence: Monarch’s Mental Health Experts Offer Tips to Handle Tragedy
Coping with crisis and working to overcome tragedy can be overwhelming, according to Monarch’s Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer for Behavioral Health Daniel Brown, MHA, MSW, LCSW said a range of emotions is normal following a disaster, but those feelings should not be ignored.
“Just the television coverage and those images of natural disasters like Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, or violent disasters like the mass shooting in Las Vegas could trigger a reaction like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for people who have been through similar experiences,” said Brown.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) symptoms someone may not be recovering from a disaster can range from anxiety, constant worrying, trouble sleeping, and other depression-like symptoms. These are common responses to disasters before, during, and after the event. Even full on panic attacks where the person feels that they are in life-threatening, immediate danger.
Monarch Behavioral Health Therapist and Mindfulness expert Jude Johnson offers way to practice how to help manage the stress that comes with a sudden horrific event. Mindfulness teaches how to be aware of feelings without judgment.
“It is wise to be informed and prepared. On the other hand, it is not helpful to check the news feed every hour,” said Johnson. “Obsessing can lead to increased anxiety and frantic decision-making. When stress becomes unmanageable it is harder for us to understand what others are saying and can be equally challenging for us to communicate our ideas clearly.”
“It is helpful to surround yourself with people who are willing to listen to our feelings and provide comfort. We are social creatures and thrive when we can provide and receive support from one another. Sometimes disasters like this provide an opportunity for us to help each other, which can take our busy minds away from what has gone wrong and place our focus on helping others. If we are unable to provide support to others, then it may be wise for us just to allow ourselves to feel what we feel with as much self-compassion as possible,” said Johnson.
Brown offers more suggestions to help adults, parents and children to appropriately explore ways to manage, maintain and restore normalcy following a catastrophe or personal trauma.
• How you’re feeling, it’s natural. Realize that any anxiety, sadness, anger, or distress you are feeling, no matter how many miles between you and any tragedy, is a natural reaction to a tragedy of this kind and magnitude.
• Shut off the TV. Media coverage of tragic events can in and of itself cause strong emotional reactions for both children and adults.
• Encourage the conversation. A certain amount of processing of events like this is healthy for adults, teens, and even children. Let the conversation happen.
• Get your mind off it. Distraction is one of the best coping methods. Exercise, see a movie or sporting event, or play a board game.
• Spend time with loved ones. Some of our greatest assets are our family and friends. If you are feeling down or troubled, spend some time with someone you love.
• Lean on your faith. Many people find strength in a higher power during times of national tragedy.
• Connect with a professional. If you are overwhelmed by your feelings, contact Monarch at (866) 272-7826 to schedule an appointment with a local mental health professional or call the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) helpline at (800) 985-5990.
The following organizations offer additional important resources that can help people to cope and overcome crisis:
National Institute of Mental Health – http://www.nimh.nih.gov
The National Council for Behavioral Health – https://www.thenationalcouncil.org/.
Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) – http://www.samhsa.gov/ or http://www.disasterdistress.samhsa.gov/
American Psychological Association (APA) – http://www.apa.org/