Res­i­dents urged not to dis­miss emo­tions in wake of trauma

Augusta Margaret River Times - - News - Warren Hately

Shire of Au­gusta-Margaret River res­i­dents have been urged to reach out for sup­port, even if many dis­miss their own emo­tional re­sponses to the re­cent tragic mur­der­sui­cide in Os­ming­ton be­cause they were not di­rectly con­nected to the vic­tims.

Amid on­go­ing com­mu­nity re­lief ef­forts that will see the Red Cross train more than 30 lo­cal care groups in men­tal health first aid, ex­perts say many res­i­dents are at risk of dis­avow­ing strong feel­ings and fore­go­ing sup­port.

Red Cross com­mu­nity re­cov­ery and emer­gency pre­pared­ness co­or­di­na­tor Claire Sil­veira said it was “com­pletely nor­mal” for peo­ple to ex­pe­ri­ence distress and grief when such a ma­jor event oc­curred within small com­mu­ni­ties.

“This is what we call a col­lec­tive trauma event,” she said. “It’s much big­ger than them­selves or the area.

“These sorts of events break down the net­works that con­nect a com­mu­nity to­gether.”

Peo­ple were urged to give credit to their emo­tional re­sponses and seek the sup­port of com­mu­nity groups or con­tact their gen­eral prac­ti­tion­ers for guid­ance if there was no sup­port net­work di­rectly avail­able. Fam­ily ther­a­pist and trauma ex­pert Jene Moody said even in­di­rect ex­po­sure could be trau­matic be­cause of details com­ing from other res­i­dents, news­pa­pers and so­cial me­dia.

“You don’t have to know the vic­tim/s or at­tended the scene or taught one of the chil­dren or known some­one who knows some­one who was good friends with one of the vic­tims,” she said.

“Some of us feel distressed by these sto­ries and im­ages, while some of us can be­come some­what de­sen­si­tised to them by the ‘oth­er­ness’ of the sto­ries.

“When it’s close to home, no one es­capes the dull thud of shock or the sharp pierc­ing of an­guish or the ver­tigo of dis­ori­en­ta­tion when the world we know tilts on its axis.”

Par­ents are en­cour­aged to check in with their chil­dren, who process the details of trau­matic events dif­fer­ently than adults.

Distress could man­i­fest through emo­tional be­hav­iour, bed-wet­ting, night­mares, un­char­ac­ter­is­tic shy­ness and loss of ap­petite.

Adults can also speak about their ex­pe­ri­ence with trusted friends, while lo­cal groups can hon­our the vic­tims and their own trauma with per­sonal trib­utes.

“The smaller the com­mu­nity, the greater the like­li­hood that ev­ery­one will know some­one di­rectly or in­di­rectly re­lated to the fam­ily,” Ms Moody said.

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