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Coping with Traumatic Events

Strong Feelings are Expected

After a traumatic event emotional and physical reactions are different for each person. While it is typical to react to a stressful event with increased anxiety, worry and anger, most people bounce back. In fact, Americans consistently demonstrate remarkable resilience in the aftermath of disasters and other traumatic events.

Connect with Friends and Family

Check in with family members and friends to find out how they are coping. Feeling stressed, sad, upset are common reactions to life changing events. Recognize and pay attention to early warning signs of more serious distress. Your children, like you, will have reactions to this difficult situation; they too may feel fearful, angry, sad, worried, and confused. Children will benefit from your talking with them on their level about what is happening, to get your reassurance, and to let them know that you and they will be OK and that you will all get through this together.

Take Care of Yourself and Each Other

Getting support from others, taking care of yourself by eating right, getting enough sleep, avoiding alcohol and drugs and getting some exercise can help to manage and alleviate stress.

Know When to Seek Help

Depending on the situation, some people may develop depression, experience grief and anger, turn to alcohol or drugs and even think about hurting themselves or others. The signs of serious problems include:

  • excessive worry
  • crying frequently
  • an increase in irritability, anger, and frequent arguing
  • wanting to be alone most of the time
  • feeling anxious or fearful, overwhelmed by sadness, confused
  • having trouble thinking clearly and concentrating, and difficulty making decisions
  • increased alcohol and/or substance use
  • increased physical (aches, pains) complaints such as headaches
  • trouble with your "nerves"

If these signs and symptoms continue (persist) and interfere with daily functioning, it is important to seek help for yourself or a loved one.

Know How to Find Help

If you or someone you care about needs help, you should contact your health care provider to get connected with trained and caring professionals. Anyone in crisis or thinking about suicide should call SAMHSA's Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). It is important to seek professional help if you need it. The Missouri Department of Mental Health has set up a Mental Health Crisis Hotline at 1-800-494-7355.

Resources to Help Cope with a Traumatic Event

For Emergency Responders:

For Individuals and Families:

Last Updated: 08/25/2011