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The Effects Death, Traumas And Disasters Have On Mental Health

When people watch news reports about death, natural disasters, terrorist attacks or school shootings, they may feel confused and scared.

Maybe they worry about themselves and the safety of their family and friends. These events disrupt our way of life and peace of mind. They can make people feel unsafe and afraid.

The following information can help people prepare for a death or disaster. The more someone learns now, the easier it can be for them to deal later on.

 

How do people feel after a death or disaster?

Lots of people are able to work through painful feelings. Most of the time they recover in weeks or months. Uncomfortable feelings and reactions tend to fade and disappear. Some of the more common reactions are:

  • Shock, numbness, and disbelief.
  • Having a hard time thinking clearly or focusing on school, friends, and family.
  • Eating too much or too little.
  • Having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep and having bad dreams or nightmares.
  • Feeling sad, mad, or afraid.
  • Crying more easily or wanting to cry.
  • Feeling grouchy, uneasy, worried, or moody.
  • You feel bad that they are okay while others are not.
  • Feeling helpless.
  • Wanting to be alone a lot, or not wanting to be alone at all.

These are common reactions. They may go away for a while and then return when something reminds you of the disaster.

Some people also may have stomachaches, headaches, skin rashes, more allergic reactions, more colds, or a run-down feeling.

 

How might I react to death or disaster?

People react differently to things that are stressful, and nearly everyone is able to work through problems and pain.

Most people recover (in weeks or months) from the following kinds of natural reactions to a terrible event:

  • Shock, numbness and disbelief.
  • Difficulty concentrating on school work, your job, friends, or family.
  • Eating too much or too little.
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Nightmares.
  • Thinking too much about what happened.
  • Being afraid for your safety and the safety of your family, friends, police, and firefighters.
  • Feeling sad about the people who were injured or died.
  • Having upsetting thoughts or pictures in your mind of what happened. They can pop into your head, or come when you’re reminded of the painful event.
  • Anger, bad temper, and not trusting others. You might argue and get into fights.
  • Feeling guilty or helpless.
  • Feeling restless-kind of uneasy or worried.
  • Headaches, stomachaches, skin rashes, body pains. and more severe allergic reactions.

 

If something bad happens, how do people deal with?

It helps most people to talk about what happened and how it makes them feel. When you feel like talking, it’s a good idea to find friends, family, or other people you trust who have lived through the same kinds of things, and talk to them.

It’s also a good idea to take care of yourself physically. Eating right, exercising, getting plenty of rest. and returning to your routine should help you feel better.

It also helps if you can find meaning in what happened or how you handled things.

 

How does someone know they need extra help to feel better?

Sometimes, even after you try most of these things, you still might not be able to get back to your regular routines. You might need help from a counselor if, after several weeks or so, you:

  • Suffer so much or for so long that you don’t think you can stand it.
  • Can’t think clearly or do your school work.
  • Have a hard time helping your family.
  • Are more likely to cause yourself injury or disease by:
    • Drinking or smoking.
    • Using street drugs.
    • Using too much medicine.
    • Being careless on skateboards, roller blades, bikes, etc.
    • Threatening, hurting, or fighting people.
  • Have eating or sleeping problems.
  • Feel like hurting yourself or others.

 

How would someone get outside help?

It takes strength to ask for help. Asking for help may sometimes feel uncomfortable, but seeking the assistance you need can help you deal with things better.

Start by talking to one of the following:

  • Parent or someone else who takes care of you
  • Pastoral care counselor
  • School counselor
  • Your family doctor or health care provider
  • Teacher
  • Trained mental health professional
  • Your community health center or the local mental health clinic
  • Mental health groups

 

If a death or disaster happens, what can I do to get through it okay?

  • It’s a good idea to take care of yourself physically, especially when under increased stress, such as after a disaster. Drinking enough water, eating right, exercising, getting plenty of rest, and returning to a regular routine should help you feel better.
  • Most people find that it helps to talk about what happened and how it makes them feel. If you feel like talking, it’s a good idea to find friends, family, or other people you trust who have lived through the same kinds of things and talk to them.
  • It also helps if you can find meaning in what has happened.
  • Pay attention to the useful ways that you handled things.

 

How will I know if I need help to cope with what I’m feeling?

It’s possible to try these ways to feel better and still not be able to get back to your regular routine, or feel as good as you used to. You might want to see a counselor if-after several or more weeks-you:

  • Suffer so much or for so long you are not sure you can stand it.
  • Can’t think clearly or do your school work.
  • Can’t handle helping out in your family (like caring for brothers or sisters, or doing chores).
  • Are doing yourself injury or disease by:
    • Drinking or smoking more than you usually do.
    • Using street drugs to help feel better or to escape your daily life.
    • Using too much or too little prescribed medication.
    • Speeding or driving carelessly.
    • Threatening, hurting, or fighting people.
  • Are still have eating or sleeping problems, or are getting sick from stress.
  • Withdraw from other people, such as close friends or family.
  • Feel like hurting yourself or others.

 

What can I do before a disaster happens?

It makes sense to prepare for disasters just as you might for any major event. As a teenager you can:

  • Talk about disasters with your parents. Identify ways that you have responded to stressful events in the past that were useful.
  • Help your parents make a plan and prepare a disaster supplies kit. Decide how to stay in touch with them in an emergency situation.
  • Learn about your school’s and town’s preparedness plans. Contact your local emergency management agency.
  • Learn more about how you react to stress and ways to handle it.

 

What should I do if a death or terrorist attack occurs?

If you are prepared, you may find it easier to take appropriate action, such as:

  • Stay informed and follow official instructions to protect yourself and your family.
  • Use the plan you and your family developed. Use those items that will help you distract yourself from the disaster while is it happening.
  • Find trusted, safe sources of information.
  • Limit how much TV and images you see of the disaster.
  • Remind yourself that feelings of upset will fade and disappear.
  • Be patient, especially with yourself. Find time to relax. Find a place to go where you feel safe so you can figure out how you’re feeling and what you want to do.
  • Return to your regular routine (like school, sports, part-time job, etc.) as soon as possible.
  • Keep up your exercise and good health habits. Get plenty of rest and drink plenty of water.
  • Stay in touch with friends, family, church activities, neighbors, etc.
  • Talk about your thoughts and feelings with people you trust.
  • Spend time with family and people you like.
  • Ask for help when you need it.

 

Online resources

Check out these links for more information about how to deal with death and disasters: