A 'traumatic event' could be:
- a natural disaster, such as flooding or other severe weather causing injuries and deaths
- a terrorist attack or serious accident
- other situations in which a person feels extreme fear, horror or helplessness
It can be helpful for those who work with people who have been affected by a traumatic event or experience to try and understand the effects that this can have on people.
When dealing with someone who has been through a traumatic event, remember that people will react very differently. While some people may want to talk about their experiences, others may not. People are likely to experience a range of emotions and feelings.
If you do need to support people who have experienced trauma try to bear in mind the following:
- Be yourself - even if you don't know what to say. Acknowledging what they have been through can help.
- Ask how they are feeling, as it may not be obvious. Don't worry if they get upset - this is a natural reaction. Remember that they may not wish to talk about the incident. Ask them if there is anything you can do.
- It may be difficult for them to feel motivated or to meet deadlines, and their ability to concentrate may be affected. Allow them to work at their own pace and allow time off, or ask if they would rather work at weekends, when it may be quieter.
- With their permission, it may be helpful to inform colleagues about the situation. They may need information, advice and education about trauma and/or loss.
- Ask about arranging extra help and support for them. Let them know about any work support services or groups. It may be helpful for them to take short breaks.
- Understand that they may be dealing with a number of issues and emotions.
- Help by treating them the same as everyone else.
- Understand that their feelings are likely to change over time.
- It can be helpful to discuss with them setting new plans and challenging projects.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is a psychological and physical condition that can occur after experiencing or witnessing traumatic events. Northern Ireland has one of the world’s highest rates of PTSD.
PTSD is not the only psychological condition that can result from a traumatic event. Many people will develop other conditions such as phobias, for example not wanting to get in a car after witnessing a major road traffic accident.