Counselling After Traumatic Events: The Woolwich Attack

The public murder of a soldier in the streets of Woolwich in front of passers-by, and the subsequent replay of mobile phone footage alongside media reports of the unspeakable sheer force of violence openly displayed, will no doubt leave a traumatic mark on many.

Friends and family members of the victim, work colleagues, eye witnesses, the emergency services and many more will hopefully be able to have swift access to appropriate support, including qualified trauma counselling, to help process the emotional impact of this event and assist in the risk reduction of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This is a severe anxiety disorder triggered by a terrifying event, with common symptoms including flashbacks, nightmares and uncontrollable thoughts about the event. Even people who have ‘witnessed’ aspects of this attack from the supposedly secure comfort of their own homes or offices via the internet, TV, radio, newspapers or social media may be left deeply affected by pictures, witness reports and often graphic reporting styles.

Disbelief about the events and a difficulty in accepting the reality of what has happened, as well as a potential re-triggering of memories of personal experiences (such as violent attacks or murders, the violation of one’s personal space through break-ins and muggings, or moments of extreme fear often experienced during domestic violence and much more) can leave a painful impact on many, particularly when combined with a heightened sense of anxiety, anger and feeling depressed. It is not unusual for this to happen. Timely counselling and therapy (even short-term) can assist in processing these emotions and memories that may have re-surfaced, before they can turn into difficulties impacting one’s mental health and quality of life more deeply and longer-term.

Self-care in these extreme moments of life is not a luxury; neither is it something to be ashamed of. It means being responsible and taking care of oneself.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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