From Rebecca Price, Campbellsville University clinical counselor
In light of today’s tragic accident, I felt it helpful to send out information about trauma, trauma response symptoms and how we can help our students who experience difficulties. PLEASE ENCOURAGE STUDENTS WHO ARE STRUGGLING TO TALK TO SOMEONE. The Office of Counseling Services is available to meet with them. You can let us know that a student is struggling or they can contact us themselves. Our number is 270-789-5070. Please leave a message because we may be in session and not able to answer the phone immediately. If you or a student needs immediate attention please call Campus Safety at 270-403-3611.
Everyone responds differently to dangerous situations and in different time frames. Just because someone is showing no signs of distress at the moment does not mean they won’t at a later time. Please be aware that some students could experience problems well after the initial trauma event has passed.
Here are some common reactions:
· Anxiety, fear, panic or anger
· Depression, or worsening fear, panic or depression
· Emotional numbing
· Difficulty sleeping
· Waking throughout the night
· Nightmares or daydreaming
· Exhaustion or mental fatigue
· Change in appetite
· Disbelief or denial of events
· Reliving images of traumatic events
· Dwelling on the event
· Easily angered or upset
· Accident proneness or problems concentrating
· Increasing frustration or impatience
· A tendency to isolate or withdraw
· Neglecting or avoiding responsibilities
· Fear or reluctance to be open or talk
· Headaches, stomach aches, indigestion
· Fear or reluctance to express emotions
· Episodes or outbursts of crying or sadness
Some students may experience symptoms of fear and panic:
· Rapid heart beat
· Rapid or faster breathing
· Indigestion or stomach aches
· Increased energy
· Dizziness or feeling faint
· Frightening images
· Racing thoughts or poor memory
· Sweating or perspiring
· Dwelling on fearful possibilities
· Trembling or "shaking"
· Problems performing tasks
· Muscle tension
· Afraid to be alone, or clinging
Others may experience symptoms of depression
· Too much or too little sleep
· Significant increase or decrease in appetite
· Loss of interest or pleasure in others or most activities
· Feeling discouraged or worthless
· A significant drop in performance in class or at work
· Suicidal thoughts, feelings or self-harming behavior
· Fatigue or loss of energy most of the time
· Restlessness, fidgeting or pacing
· Uncontrolled outbursts of crying
· Feeling sad, helpless or hopeless most of the time
· Episodes of fear, tension or anxiety
· Frustration, irritability, emotional outbursts
· Repeated physical complaints without pain in arms or legs
· Abuse or increased use of alcohol or drugs
Steps students need to take if symptoms are significant
· Symptoms are usually significant when they interfere with usual activities, change behavior in significant ways, or they persist for more than two weeks.
· Seek medical advice for any physical symptoms that are new, especially if you are having health problems and have not had a medical evaluation for these symptoms.
· If you are unable to escape feelings of panic, guilt, depression or stress, or these symptoms are extreme or prolonged, contact a mental health provider for advice.
· Seek help or advice from a qualified mental health professional if a child or an adult begins thinking or feeling guilty or suicidal.
Encourage students to do the following:
· Physical Activity: Maintaining regular exercise greatly increases resistance to the stress reactions associated with traumatic events and relieves the immediate symptoms of stress.
· Nutrition: Health studies have shown that by moderating fats, sugar, caffeine, alcohol and smoking you can greatly improve your resistance to stress reactions and promote recovery.
· Adequate Sleep: Try not to nap when you would normally be awake. Go to bed when you are sleepy and when you would normally sleep. Wake up when you normally would and try to avoid sleeping in. It is important to keep a regular sleep schedule as much of as possible.
· Time Management: Try to schedule your time and meet as many of your usual commitments and activities as possible, Don't withdraw for an extended period of time. Avoid over extending yourself in your work or new commitments for long periods. Repeatedly over extending yourself is not healthy if you are doing it to avoid dealing with the emotional impact of the flood.
· Talk It Out: Reaching out to friends or potential friends as a means of to establish supportive relationships can be a tremendous help. Talk about your feelings and stress reaction with someone who is a good listener, may have experience dealing with similar problems, and is most of all, supportive.
· Remember Breathing: People under stress or experiencing panic unconsciously change their pattern of breathing. When you feel stressed or panicked, take 4 to 5 slow deep breaths that let you inhale and exhale completely. Relax your muscles as you exhale.
· Be Assertive: Use healthy and effective communication skills that will let people know what you need or want. When you deliberately ask for what you need, you are less likely to resort to blaming, becoming frustrated or disappointed when people don’t know what you need.
· Take Time To Be Alone: Try to spend some time or plan some time to be by yourself. Sometimes it helps to imagine quiet places or pleasurable activities like vacations, relaxing or enjoying a hobby.
· Forgiveness: During and following a crisis people can’t remember or do everything they would like. Forgiving yourself and expressing forgiveness to others is a key to recovery.
· Be Open To Change Or Obtaining Assistance: If your behavior or emotional state are significantly changed by a traumatic event and does not improve after a significant time (usually two weeks), seek help from a qualified mental health professional. The Office of Counseling Services is available to students by calling 270-789-5070.
· Help Others: Helping others can be a good way to feel better and recover. We all feel a need to be useful and to help others, but don’t help others all the time to avoid dealing with your own feelings.
· Play: Spend time in a few simple activities that are fun or entertaining. Grieving takes time.
Information Taken from: Coping And Surviving Violent And Traumatic Events By: Michael G. Conner, Psy.D
Posted on Thu, August 21, 2014
by Joan McKinney