Check in on mental health after a tragedy

Seeking help can make moving forward more peaceful.
Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 6:32 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - In the days and weeks following a tragedy, it’s important to check in on your mental health.

After the tragic shooting at the University of Virginia on Sunday, the school brought in counselors and other resources for students.

“If you can do things for people who have experienced acute trauma in the first 24-48 hours, the recovery time is better. People feel supported. People can also move their memories of the event into a different space,” said Amy Ghaemmaghami with Augusta Health.

Negative feelings after a tragedy may begin to resolve over time, or they may persist. Regardless, seeking help - whether it’s in the form of medication, mindfulness, counseling or a support group - can make moving forward more peaceful.

Anger, sadness, grief, helplessness or hopelessness are all normal reactions after going through a traumatic event.

“They are normal people having normal reactions to an abnormal situation,” said Maisie Mathews, Bereavement Services Coordinator with Sentara RMH.

Even if you weren’t directly impacted by the event, it’s normal to deal with negative emotions, too.

“It’s important to make space for those because by doing so, we’re kind of avoiding experiencing prolonged or complicated grief,” said Mathews.

Information travels vividly and quickly, so the impact of traumatic events branches outside the immediate community.

“These traumas, because of the nature of TV and social media, can affect almost everybody,” said Ghaemmaghami.

For grief and trauma, there is no rule book, and there’s no timeline. Mathews said there may be a change after three months, though.

“By three months you may experience more intense grief reactions because the shock and the disbelief and the numbness people experience the first couple of months has probably worn off and the way that culturally we respond has also settled,” said Mathews.

Between four and 12 months, a person may be experiencing more good days than bad.

In those times, call on your loved ones.

“It’s important not to isolate, to really lean into your supports and process what you’re feeling is important for healing. The more we isolate, the more we’re kind of keeping it in and prohibiting the processing that could happen,” said Mathews.

Ghaemmaghami said it may be helpful to become involved in the community.

“You might find that this is a time that creates a need and a desire in you to become more socially engaged,” said Ghaemmaghami. “Where can you volunteer? How can you help others? How do you get out of your own head and be part of the larger community?”

For more information on post-traumatic stress, visit the National Center for PTSD. For more on trauma after a violent event, visit SAMHSA’s website.

For more resources on mental health visit Lifeline.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call or text 988 for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.