Mental Health Tips in the Wake of Trauma

Mental Health Tips in the Wake of Trauma

Distressed man looking at computer headlines in the darkAmericans today see reports of mass shootings through various social media forums; which can make it feel like they’re occurring more frequently.

The facts are that death tolls have risen when a shooting occurs, the shooters have gotten younger in age, and the type of venues in which shootings happen has increased over the years.

These horrific acts of violence have caused many on social media to discuss feelings of numbness, sadness and anxiety. In times such as this, it’s important to look at how can we can take a step back to evaluate the information we’re receiving. We should also examine how we take care of our mental health in the midst of tragedy and mourning.

Step 1: Discuss your emotions

After trauma has occurred, it is the body’s normal response to experience a different range of emotions. Many people will express feelings of:

  • Numbness
  • Exhaustion
  • Confusion
  • Sadness
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Physical symptoms—upset stomach, lack of sleep, hyper-arousal

I encourage you to identify the emotions you’re having regarding the events. Once you identify an emotion, you can start to address where in your body you feel it most. It’s important to tune into your body and its needs following traumatic news.

Some of the steps below can ease physical symptoms after a trauma. Also, make sure to take time out to:

  • Remain physically active
  • Take a relaxing bath and/or shower
  • Meditate on three things you’re grateful for
  • Get adequate rest at the end of your day

Step 2: Disconnect from exposure

Digital technology allows us easily connect to one another. This usually serves to a benefit to those whose loved ones live far away. In the wake of a traumatic event, however, it can serve as a constant reminder and also widely spread graphic footage.

Give yourself a break from viewing live footage and/or hourly updates. The constant exposure to trauma can evoke secondary PTSD symptoms. Turning off the TV, and logging off of social media for set amount of time can be extremely beneficial.

Step 3: Reach out to a professional

If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, it may be time to seek professional help.

  • Excessive fear
  • Anger
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Isolation
  • Irritable or aggressive behavior
  • Paranoia
  • Being easily startled
  • Struggling to fall or stay asleep

Pine Rest has nearly 200 therapists at multiple locations in West Michigan as well as teletherapy, and many other providers are also available in the region. If you are unable to afford treatment, ask the therapist if they have a patient assistance program or check with your employer. Often, organizations have an Employee Assistance Program benefit that provides several free, confidential counseling sessions each year to employees and their household members. The Pine Rest Employee Assistance Program offers programs to employers as well as faith-based organizations and schools.

Step 4: Find a cause to support

To help process feelings of anger and grief, it can be helpful to find a cause to support and advocate for change. There are local legislators and policies that need the help and support of the people to help ensure traumatic violent events and crimes are no longer a frequent occurrence.

It is normal to feel whatever feelings you are having, but it’s important to discuss how we as a community can ensure the safety and well-being of one another. The impact of hatred and violence affects an entire community, but love also can make a long-standing impact on a community.

It is my hope that through the wake of trauma and tragedy that pure love is magnified and touches those near and far.


Elizza LeJeune, LMSWElizza LeJeune, LMSW, is a fully licensed clinician social worker at the Pine Rest Northwest Clinic. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Central Michigan University and her Master’s in Social Work with a Certificate in Disaster Mental Health from Tulane University in New Orleans. Her areas of interest include working with children, adolescents and adults struggling with depression, anxiety and spiritual issues as well as family, child and women’s issues.

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