Coping with Traumatic Events in the News

The Johns Hopkins Employee Assistance Program (JHEAP) acknowledges the traumatic events in the news including those that impacted the University of Virginia, University of Idaho, and Club Q in Colorado Springs.

It is very common and normal for people to have reactions after they have experienced or relate to a traumatic event, have witnessed a traumatic event themselves or in the news, or are close to someone who has been the victim of a traumatic event. Traumatic events affect each person differently. You may be experiencing or may experience later some strong emotional and physical reactions. Click here to read more on coping with grief after community violence.

Practical Tips to Help You Cope with the Aftermath of a Traumatic Event

For Employees:

Find someone you trust. Find supportive people (family members, friends, co-workers) and talk with them about your experience. Don't carry this burden alone—share it with those who care about you. Give yourself permission to feel what you are feeling. Acknowledge your feelings as they arise. Remember you are having normal reactions and it takes time to heal.

Take care of yourself. Get enough rest and eat regularly. Keep up your exercise routine if you have one. Don't abuse drugs or alcohol—they can hinder and delay recovery. Take a media break. Minimize your exposure to all types of media. While getting the news informs you, being overexposed can augment your distress. Instead, seek out things you enjoy to lift your spirits.

Practice relaxation. Meditate if you know how; if not, visualize a quiet scene. You can't always get away, but you can hold a vision in your mind—a quiet country scene, for example, will temporarily take you out of the turmoil of a stressful situation. Maintain as normal a schedule as possible. This will give you a feeling of control over your life. However, delay making major life decisions until your symptoms decrease significantly.

For Managers:

Following a traumatic incident, everyone has some type of an emotional response. Each person will recover at his/her own rate. Recovery can be a long and difficult process. Tell your employees how you feel and that you are sorry they had to go through this difficult experience/event. Avoid statements like "I know how you feel" or "Everything will be all right." These statements make some people think their feelings are not understood. Be willing to say nothing. Just being there is often the most supportive thing you can do to help. Click here to learn how to listen when someone is hurting.

As a manager, you are not immune to the effects of a traumatic event, regardless of whether or not you directly experienced it. Don't forget to address your own needs and responses to this incident. Occasionally, the traumatic event is so painful that professional assistance may be helpful. This does not imply weakness, but simply indicates that this particular event was too powerful to manage alone. REMEMBER YOU CAN ALWAYS SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP. You don't have to go through this experience alone.

JHEAP is a confidential counseling service, provided at no cost to employees and their household members. Just call 1-888-978-1262 or visit the CCA@YourService website. Company code is JHEAP.

You can find LGBTQIA+ Mental Health and Self-Care Resources from the Johns Hopkins Employee Assistance Program here.