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Press Release: Strategy for Coping Emotionally With National Tragedy

September 15, 2001

SOURCE: State of Washington

As the traumatic events of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, unfold and more is learned about the damage and loss of life across the country, many citizens may be experiencing a strong emotional response. The Washington Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) has some points people can use to gauge their feelings and to cope with those feelings.

Support is available for anyone who may be experiencing the emotional and behavioral symptoms and are having difficulty returning to their daily routine. In the front of every phone book are the telephone numbers for your local crisis lines. (A list of all county crisis line phone numbers is attached.)

"This tragedy effects all of us," said Karl Brimner, Director of the DSHS Mental Health Division. "Everyone needs to understand and recognize that the fear and anger they may be experiencing is a normal reaction to this unusual event."

The following are some reactions common to people who experience traumatic stress following a crisis or disaster. Although these thoughts, feelings and actions can be very upsetting, people should try to remember that they are normal reactions to what can be an abnormal and very stressful situation.

  • Recurring dreams or nightmares;
  • Reconstructing the events surrounding the disaster in an effort to construct a different outcome;
  • Trouble concentrating or remembering things;
  • Questioning your spiritual or religious beliefs;
  • Repeated thoughts or memories of the disaster which are hard to stop;
  • Feeling numb, withdrawn or disconnected;
  • Experiencing fear and anxiety when things remind you of the event;
  • Feeling a lack of involvement or enjoyment in everyday activities;
  • Feeling depressed, blue, or down much of the time;
  • Feeling bursts of anger, or intense instability;
  • Feeling a sense of emptiness or hopelessness about the future;
  • Being overprotective of your and your family's safety;
  • Isolating yourself from others;
  • Becoming very alert at times, and startling easily;
  • Having problems getting to sleep or staying asleep;
  • Avoiding activities, people or places that remind you of the disaster;
  • Having increased conflict with family members;
  • Keeping excessively busy to avoid thinking about the disaster;
  • Being tense or crying for no apparent reason.
Suggested coping strategies to lessen the impacts of any changes in thoughts, feelings and/or actions:
      Try to keep some family routines in place such as regular meal times and other family rituals. These will help you to feel as though your life has some sense of order.
        Upsetting times can cause people to drink alcohol or to use other drugs in a way that causes other problems. Try to cope with your stresses without increasing your drinking or other drug use. Increasing usage will not help in the long run.
          Healthy practices, such as eating well and getting enough sleep are especially important in times of high stress.
            Try not to be to hard on yourself or others when your reactions become excessive. This can be a difficult time and everyone's emotions are closer to the surface.
              Don't let yourself become isolated. Maintain connections with your friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers and church members. Talk about your experiences with these important individuals.

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