Coping with a traumatic event

Emergencies are unexpected and can be traumatic or distressing to the people present. Some people experience an immediate emotional or physical reaction; for some this reaction is delayed and could appear days, weeks, or even months after witnessing a traumatic event; and some people appear not to have a reaction at all.

It is important to remember that people react in different ways and there is no right way to react.

Some reactions or changes that you may notice:

  • Anxiety or fear
  • Depression and/or grief
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Disturbing dreams
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Reliving the event and flashbacks of aspects of the event
  • Withdrawal
  • Mood swings
  • Gastro-intestinal problems
  • Over-reaction to noise
  • Self-doubt and lack of confidence
  • Pre-existing personal problems may be more difficult to deal with

These are normal reactions to witnessing an abnormal event.
Remember you may experience reactions not listed here.

Ideas to help yourself after a distressing event:

  • Give yourself time to recover
  • Accept that your reactions are normal given the abnormal event you experienced
  • Talk about the event with people you trust
  • Be prepared to ask for professional help
  • Talk to your local doctor
  • Try to get back to your normal routine as soon as possible
  • Avoid excessive alcohol, nicotine and coffee
  • Eat healthy
  • Get some exercise
  • Do things you enjoy
  • Spend time with people you feel comfortable with
  • Regularly monitor how you are feeling and what you might need to help you to deal with what you experienced

It is important that you take care of yourself and know where you can seek further assistance should you feel it necessary. This information is provided to help those involved in a traumatic event, but does not replace professional assistance.

It’s okay to ask for help.

  • Healthline: 811
  • CHANNAL Warm Line: 1-855-753-2560
  • Provincial Mental Health and Addictions System Navigator: 1-877-999-7589
  • Doorways Drop-in Counselling: 709-752-4903
  • Mental Health Crisis Line: 1-888-737-4668

Printable Bystander Information Cards (264 KB)