Psychological Care following a traumatic experience

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Following the tragedy that occurred on the streets of Melbourne on Friday I have been saddened and shocked. 

I know that there are many people who have been directly affected by Fridays events. The ripple effects will have spread far and wide. If you are feeling the psychological effects of this particular event, or another traumatic experience, then this article is for you. 

This article will help you to take care of yourself and your loved ones following a shocking or traumatic incident. It's important to be mindful that events such as these can be a trigger for some, even if they were not directly involved. If you or someone you know are feeling triggered or have noticed a significant change in mental/emotional health, please follow up with a healthcare professional. 

It's essential to be able to de-brief after a traumatic incident in which your life or the life of someone you love has been threatened (or if you have witnessed this). Find a counsellor/pscyhologist/mental health social worker who specialises in trauma; they will be an important part of your recovery in the days, weeks and months following the incident. 

Here's a helpful Trauma Recovery web-site that provides a model for trauma recovery, it includes an overview of phases of recovery and the important elements that support healing. It also provides useful information for families and friends supporting someone who has experienced trauma.

Whilst a traumatic experience does not mean you will develop PTSD, it can lead to the development of PTSD. Seeking support for your mental health, as soon as possible, can reduce the likelihood of the development of longer term mental health issues.

There are many emotional and psychological changes which can occur following a shocking or traumatic experience. These are normal reactions to an abnormal event and include: shock, denial, disbelief, confusion, anger, irritability, sadness, feeling disconnected or numb. Physical signs and symptoms include fatigue, racing heartbeat, insomnia and aches and pains. If you're experiencing any of these, it is useful to be able to recognise them as normal. Even though they are normal responses, remember that they are occuring due to an abnormal event- it's worthwhile seeking professional support as soon as possible. 

 5 important steps to take following a traumatic or shocking experience:

1. Find a professional to speak to. You may wish to see your GP initially to seek a referral before you see a counsellor. If you have a GP who you have a good relationship with then visiting them is an excellent first step. 

2. Find a therapist/counsellor/psychologist/mental health social worker who has expertise in the field of trauma. (A google search will help and I have listed a few therapists whose web-sites say they have expertise in trauma below)

3. Take good care of yourself in the coming days and weeks, be gentle with yourself and ask for help from trusted friends and family.

4. At this time it is important to reach out, to talk to people you can trust and ask for support. If you notice yourself wanting to withdraw, reach out and seek professional support- there are 24 hour services available via phone.

5. Know the signs and symptoms of shock and trauma- click this link for information about normal responses to shocking and/or traumatic experiences. 

Some suggestions for support & information following a traumatic experience are:

Phoenix Australia Resources for Post Traumatic Health

Psychology Melbourne for Counselling

Donna Zander Counselling- Specialising in Trauma for children & adults

Moonyah Counselling Melbourne

Somatic Pyschotherapy Australia list of therapists in Victoria

Beyond Blue- Information about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Emotional Freedom Technique Video to tap into feelings of Strength & Hope

Guide for coping with emotional and psychological trauma

You can also do your own search and find lots more ideas for help- this list is a good starting point.

For urgent support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 for confidential 24/7 counselling and referrals.

Witnesses and victims of the Bourke Street incident requiring support can also call the Victim's Support Helpline on 1800 819 817.

Disclaimer: I have not personally had experience with the links I have provided above. I am not endorsing these organisations/approaches, rather I have listed them as suggestions for your own exploration. Please decide based on your own research and what feels right for you.