I am experiencing stress related to a mass violence incident, natural disaster, other trauma. What are some ways I can support myself?

Remind yourself that stress reactions after mass violence, disaster or other trauma are normal and OK. Feeling distressed by these experiences does not mean you are “weak” or unusual. 

Acknowledge the fear you or your loved ones are feeling.Recognize that having strong emotions and valid fears following a tragedy is to be expected in circumstances that feel frightening and out of control. 

Seek support from others. Virtual support groups, in-person support groups, personal therapy, or employee assistance programs (EAPs) can all be helpful. 

Practice helpful thinking. Be aware of your thoughts. If they are adding to your distress, try shifting your perspective. For example, if you find yourself thinking, “I can’t get through this,” try asking yourself a question like, “Could I get through it if I had some help?”, and then adopt a more positive, energizing thought, like “With the right help, I can get through this.” 

Concentrate on the four core components of resilience. Get adequate sleep and practice good nutrition, regular physical activity, and active relaxation (e.g., yoga, meditation, etc.) 

Find a sense of purpose and control.  Advocating for change is one way to try and regain a sense of equilibrium. Join with like-minded others to contribute to some kind of solution, by doing things like writing to elected officials, fundraising, or starting petitions, or brainstorm with others on the question: “What do you think we can do about this?”

Engage in absorbing activities or hobbies. Immersive activities such as art, music, games, sports, spending time in nature and other experiences that feel like “channel changing” experiences, entirely different sensory input, content, etc. can be helpful. 

Practice your spiritual beliefs. Or reach out to a faith leader for support, try a mindfulness activity or spend time in nature. 

The following resources may be helpful:

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Disaster Distress Helpline provides 24/7, 365-day-a-year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related natural or human-caused disasters. Call or text 1-800-985-5990
  • Visit Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) “Incidents of Mass Violence” webpage for information and resources for emotional distress related to the effects of mass violence. 
  • You may wish to consult our website’s Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder page where you will find information on the condition, current treatments, and ways to support recovery.
  • The US Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD website  provides resources for individuals, family members and providers about combat- and non-combat-related PTSD, including information on understanding PTSD, treatment options, self-help resources, and finding support as a family member. Their website offers resources for finding a treatment provider. Their “Helping a Family Member Who Has PTSD”  webpage is also available in Spanish. 
  • US Department of Veterans Affairs National PTSD Center also offers an infographic about common trauma reactions and coping strategies
  • US Department of Veterans Affairs National PTSD Center also offers an “Acute Stress Disorder” Fact Sheet, with information about coping in the first month after a traumatic event.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing International Association website EMDR International Association offers a “Find an EMDR Therapist” locator to find clinicians trained in the use of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, a psychotherapy treatment that helps people recover from trauma and other distressing life experiences, including PTSD.
  • Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy National Therapist Certification Program offers a therapist locator to find clinicians trained in the use of Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), a psychotherapy treatment that helps people recover from trauma.
  • International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation provides resources and referrals to therapists for the treatment of trauma and dissociation; they can also be reached at (703)-610-9037 between 1-4pm ET.
  • NAMI affiliates offer support groups for people living with mental health conditions, and family support groups for family members, significant others and friends of people with mental health conditions. Find the nearest NAMI support group here.
  • National Association of School Psychologists provides a tip sheet, “Talking to Children about Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers.”
  • The JED Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for teen and young adult emotional health, provides a “How to Cope with Traumatic Events” webpage with tips on coping and when to seek professional help.
  • The Child Mind Institute, a children’s mental health nonprofit, provides a “Helping Children Cope with Frightening News” webpage with tips on how parents and guardians can help kids process grief and fear in a healthy way.

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