Sitler: Rebounding from Trauma

penny sitler

Have you ever been a bystander to a horrific accident, a house fire or some other terrible occurrence?

That sick sense in the pit of the stomach and the racing heart that comes with our natural fight or flight response is what I’ve felt way too often as I helplessly observe happenings over the past two months. Tremendous hurricanes have pounded once, twice, three times on our hemisphere. The Las Vegas rampage killed and wounded so many and has most likely caused post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in scores of others, even far away family and friends. The details of Hollywood executives exploiting women for decades have been gruesome.

In our own little corner of the world, the number of deaths from overdose and suicide continues to mount. It’s hard to erase the image of the ear piercing shrieks of innocent babies born addicted to drugs. In suicide prevention, we talk about the ripple effect on loved ones who lose someone to suicide. My heart breaks for the children in our community who have been left without a parent due to suicide, not to mention all of the parents, siblings, spouses and friends who have lost a loved one.

I know I’m not alone. So many of you are equally stunned by what we’ve all witnessed. So what do we do to bounce back? It would be easy to pull the covers up over our heads and stay in bed, but that’s not helpful. We must do something to begin to heal.

First, stay connected. Isolation is the worst coping mechanism that is too often a reaction to trauma. Research shows that lacking social connections is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day (Holt-Lunstad, 2015). Reach out to those you know who have been impacted in whatever way you can. Friends of mine who have vacationed in Key West for over 35 years and were heartsick over the hurricane damage there held a happy hour in Ohio and raised substantial funds for several organizations in the Keys. By helping others and gathering their friends, they employed two important protective factors to help themselves rebound.

When you’re feeling the weight of all of the strife in our world, be good to yourself. It’s so important to eat well, get plenty of sleep and exercise. Taking care of yourself will help give you the fuel that you need to reach a helping hand out to others and make a difference. Figure out what helps you relax and build time into every day to do that activity. Then you can figure out what you have to offer to improve your community or the larger world. Acting out of compassion and with civility, whether you donate money, do a supplies drive or send words of encouragement, will go a long way toward helping people in areas that have experienced such a life-changing event.

Sitler is the Executive Director of Mental Health America of Licking County

Found in The Newark Advocate November 3, 2017

Comments are closed.