Residents urged not to dismiss emotions in wake of trauma
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.