The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

December 19, 2012

Mental health expert shares ways to handle tragedy

After Connecticut school shooting, professional offers ways to help restore normalcy


SNAP

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 — Whether you or your loved ones have been directly impacted by disaster or you have been deeply affected by tragic events that occur miles and miles away, coping with crisis and working to overcome tragedy can be overwhelming. Monarch’s mental health experts say a range of emotions is normal following a disaster, but they should not be ignored.

“It is very common to feel anxious about your own safety and that of your loved ones following a horrific tragedy or major nationally-broadcast tragedy, especially one that involves children,” said Monarch Chief Clinical Officer Daniel Brown, MSW, LCSW.

“We are often fearful as disturbing images are repeatedly broadcast. Just as often as we see it, it can play over and over in our minds the same way. That imagery can cause anxiety, distress and strong reactions for adults and children alike.”

Monarch psychiatrists, therapists and clinicians know how important good mental health is to overall health and well-being, especially after any trauma. Brown suggests individuals and families should not be reluctant to search for or ask for help.

“There are many different responses to crisis. Many people experience intense feelings after a disaster, but can recover. While others encounter some obstacles on the road to recovery,” Brown said.

“The most effective way for anyone to effectively overcome these kinds of challenges is to seek the help and support necessary to cope and get well.”

 Brown offers the following suggestions to help adults, parents and children to appropriately explore ways to manage, maintain and restore normalcy following a catastrophe or personal trauma.

How you’re feeling, it’s natural. Realize that any anxiety, sadness, anger or distress you are feeling, no matter how many miles between you and any tragedy, is a natural reaction to a tragedy of this kind and magnitude.

Shut off the TV. Today’s media coverage of tragic events like this can in and of itself cause strong emotional reactions for both children and adults.

Encourage the conversation. A certain amount of processing of events like this is healthy for adults, teens and even children. Let the conversation happen.

Get your mind off it. Distraction is one of the best coping methods. Go exercise, see a movie or sporting event or play a board game.

Spend time with loved ones. Some of our greatest assets are our family and friends. If you are feeling down or troubled, spend some time with someone you love.

Lean on your faith. Many people find strength in a higher power during times of national tragedy.  

Connect with a professional. If you feel overwhelmed by your feelings, contact the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) helpline at (800) 985-5990 or go see a local mental health professional.

Monarch, a statewide organization that serves thousands of people with mental illness, substance abuse disorders and intellectual and developmental disabilities, offers a variety of behavioral health services, psychiatric assessments, medication management and other related-support services in Anson, Bladen, Columbus, Cabarrus, Davidson, Guilford, Harnett, Lee, Mecklenburg, Moore, Richmond, Robeson, Rowan, Scotland, Stanly and Union counties. The organization provides crisis assessment services in Davidson, Guilford, Mecklenburg, Robeson and Stanly counties.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Monarch’s referral line at (866) 272-7826, email refer ral@monarchnc.org or visit www.monarchnc.org.

The following organizations offer additional important resources that can help people to cope and overcome crisis:

National Institute of Mental Health — http://www.nimh.nih.gov

Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) — http://www.samhsa.gov/  

American Psychological Association (APA) — http://www.apa.org/.