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Coping with traumatic events

World events often affect our sense of safety and security. Adults and children respond to these events in many ways.

This page helps you understand these responses and offer support.

Different people, different reactions

There's no one 'normal' reaction to the extreme stress of traumatic experiences.

Some people respond immediately, others have delayed reactions. Sometimes these reactions are months or even years later.

Some have negative reactions for a long time, while others recover quickly.

Some people use their support systems to cope with the emotional and physical demands of trauma.

But for others, emotional and physical symptoms continue to make daily living difficult.

Some may feel intense anxiety or ongoing sadness that affects work and relationships.

Ongoing feelings of stress

If you feel you're not coping with normal daily stress, think about talking with an experienced trauma counsellor.

They help people affected by trauma to find helpful ways of dealing with the emotional impact.

Children and traumatic events

The intense anxiety and fear after a disaster or other trauma can be especially difficult for children.

Some may go back to younger behaviours like sucking their thumb or wetting the bed.

They may have nightmares and fear sleeping alone.

They may not do well at school.

There are other changes. These may include:

  • frequent tantrums
  • withdrawing
  • becoming more solitary.

It is important to understand that children can recover from traumatic events.

Help children cope with their feelings

Some ways to help your child understand:

  • give age-appropriate facts about what's happening
  • encourage them to express their emotions
  • talk about the event together as a family
  • reassure children they are safe and loved
  • maintain family routines as much as possible
  • avoid media coverage of the event
  • talk to school teachers about what is happening.

When the reactions don't stop

Sometimes children continue to struggle with their feelings. Signs include:

  • continual and aggressive emotional outbursts
  • serious problems at school
  • preoccupation with the traumatic event
  • continued and extreme withdrawal
  • other signs of intense anxiety or emotional difficulties.

These all point to the need for professional help.

A mental health professional can help children and their parents understand and deal with the result of trauma.

Teenagers and trauma

Encourage teenagers to talk about:

  • confusing feelings
  • worries
  • daydreams
  • disruptions of concentration
  • their thoughts about media coverage of events.

Validate their feelings, listen and reassure them that these reactions are normal after a very traumatic event.

Information about their safety is important.

Teenagers may not want to talk about it. Let them talk when they're ready.

Local community support

It is vital to understand that trauma responses can be distressing and confusing.

Local communities are the best place for support.

Support from families, friends, neighbours, family doctors and churches (where appropriate) is most helpful after traumatic events.

Some Councils also have services to support individuals and families.

Support services

You can access emergency after-hours counselling through Lifeline. Call 131 114.

Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) has information on coping with traumatic events and emergencies.

ABC News and Smart Traveller has current news and Travel Warning Information

Need help?

Contact us and we will get back to you.

Or call our Emergency Management team on 9298 8000.

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