Coping after a large scale traumatic event

Large scale traumatic events don’t only affect those directly involved – you can also feel the impact of trauma through exposure to ongoing media coverage or public discussion. This may make you feel unsafe, anxious, or powerless, and it’s important you address these feelings so they don’t significantly impact your daily life.

Below are some tips to help you or your friends and family, when faced with news of a large scale tragedy:

  • Limit your media exposure: Watching, reading, or listening to ongoing coverage of traumatic events can leave you feeling isolated and depressed, and can increase symptoms of acute stress. Try to avoid repetitive coverage, including through social media channels.
  • Look after your health: Stress can manifest both physically and mentally. Stick to your daily routine, and try to get some exercise and some quality sleep. Avoid using drugs and alcohol to cope with your feelings.
  • Talk about it (but know when to stop): It may help to discuss your feelings with people you trust. Others may also be looking to talk it through with you. 
  • Make sure you monitor your feelings –  if you feel you are getting into a negative pattern of focusing too much on the event, then be sure to let people know you’d like to change the topic and focus on something more positive.
  • Spend time in familiar places: If you’re feeling anxious and uncertain, go places that make you feel safe. This can mean sticking to your routine (i.e. work, home, sporting club) until you feel safe elsewhere.
  • Children may need your guidance: Whilst it’s hard for adults when a mass disaster or tragedy occurs, children will need even more help with how to cope. It’s important that you moderate what they see and hear and make sure your discussions are age appropriate. Let them ask questions, and dispel any misinformation they may have picked up from school or media. Reassure them they are loved and that best efforts are being made, in and outside the home, to keep them safe.
  • Help others: Whether it’s donating to help victims, attending a vigil, or volunteering with a support organisation, helping others can also help you feel active in your community’s recovery or response to the event.

If you are still finding it difficult (whether you have been exposed directly or indirectly to tragedy), then you may also wish to seek professional help from your GP, psychologist, or a qualified counsellor.

Advice and support

If you would like further advice and support on how best to help someone you care about, contact our Step Together helpline workers.

Last updated:

18 Oct 2023

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