Voluntary Groups (Secondary aged Students)

Normal reactions to a traumatic event

Following any distressing event it is quite normal to experience a range of reactions. Each person will respond in her/his own way. Students may show some of the following:

  • Not being able to concentrate or want to do school work or make decisions
  • Avoiding places, people or objects which remind them of the incident
  • Physical effects such as feeling unwell, headaches, listlessness or over activity
  • Nightmares, irritability
  • Feelings of guilt and/or responsibility
  • Difficulty accepting events and how they have been affected e.g. appearing over brave
  • Changes in personality e.g. feeling depressed or isolated, becoming irritable or angry
  • Needing to go over and over the incident which can test the patience of those closest
  • Seeing or hearing the person who has died.

These reactions are all common responses and are usually short-lived, e.g. up to four weeks. The majority of people will get over the experience with the support of family, friends, school and social groups or clubs.

How to help your young people

A traumatic event often leaves people feeling confused and unsettled, it is therefore very important to consider the following strategies

  • Listen to and try to understand your young people's views of the event
  • Give attention, reassurance and say things simply
  • Allow your young people to talk about the event and express their feeling – give them reassurance and permission to feel upset
  • Check young people's understanding of the event
  • Answer questions as truthfully as possible, if you do not know something say that
  • Encourage them to maintain regular routines both at home and at school
  • Encourage healthy eating, exercise and rest
  • Encourage them to resume/continue other social activities and clubs
  • Let young people know that their reactions are as might be expected
  • It can help to recall happy memories

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