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You have been exposed to a severe incident. This might trigger mental reactions.
This pamphlet gathers advice about how to handle the first hours and days after an incident. You might feel overwhelmed by discomfort, feelings and thoughts about the incident.
The pamphlet also provides information about how this might affect you long term – and how to handle it, if you experience any reactions.
Your nearest relatives might find it difficult to manage that you have been in a severe incident. They may not know how to react to your situation. Page 5 and 6 gathers advice and information specifically made for relatives.
Humans react differently to severe incidents. Some are affected by a powerful, instant reaction, while others have little or no reaction. Some experience a reaction after a while. Be aware of how you feel. Acknowledge the reaction that may come, and ask for help if you need it. In the bottom of the pamphlet, you can find information about where to get help.
How you act, in the following hours immediately after the incident, can have a great impact on how traumatic memories will be stored in your mind. Try to lead your attention to something positive.
Follow this advice in the first six hours immediately after the incident
Try as much as possible to
relax, since this
can help dampen the flow of emotions that you are feeling. For example, you can listen to calming music or watch a movie with a calming plot. You can also play an uncomplicated computer game, such as Tetris. These activities can help you calm down, and help you think of something else. If you manage to calm down, you will produce less adrenaline in your body, which will be a positive outcome in itself. Avoid intensive physical activity that increases your heart rate. Avoid any consumption of alcohol.
It can be tempting to fall asleep after an incident, but you should wait for at least 6 hours. If you sleep, it enlarges the risk of storing the traumatic memories of the incident in your memory.
As far as possible, recite the incident in short, factual terms in the immediate hours after the incident. If you recite the incident in detail, it might enlarge the risk of storing the traumatic memories of the incident in your memory. This might cause recurring flashbacks, such as nightmares, uncomfortable sensory perceptions and unpleasant impressions. Avoid talking in detail about the feelings or physical reactions the incident has triggered.
In the hours immediately after the incident, you should not be alone. Be surrounded by relatives or friends, who can take care of you. Abstain from talking about the incident. Instead do something that makes you feel good, such as being comfortable under a blanket, feeling the warmth of a cup of tea or holding hands with someone you care about. It is important that you do not feel alone, as this can reduce the risk of negative implications in the future.
If there is any help personnel or others present, it can be beneficial to receive their help for creating an overview of the incident. When you have an overview, it can be easier to tone down your thoughts and considerations.
If you try to create your own overview from memory, there is a risk that you will sustain the traumatic memories from the incident. You should try to avoid this.
In this phase, you should be pleased, if you can outline the incident. It can be beneficial to talk to others, who were involved in the incident after a while. Together, you can reach an overview and description that is as coherent and objective as possible. By talking to others, you might feel less lonely.
Humans react differently after a severe incident. This is an overview of reactions, which typically occurs within the first hours or days after an incident.
Everything around you can seem unreal – as if it is all a dream.
A severe incident may trigger some overwhelming thoughts or emotions. It can change your perception of the world as a safe and predictable place.
You may be filled with thoughts, such as “how was this incident even possible?” and “what do I do if it happens again?”.
You may feel powerless or helpless. You may feel a loss of control or that life has no meaning.
You may lose faith in other people and have thoughts such as “who can I trust?” or “there is no God, when something like this happens”.
You may start blaming yourself and feel that you have failed. “I should have seen it coming” or “why didn’t I do something?” can be some of the thoughts that follows.
Other reactions that may occur:
Some may lose total interest in their surroundings and they may feel distant, as if they are not present. Others are not able to feel positive emotions. Many have problems with insomnia.
Reactions occurring four weeks after the incident
Mental reactions can occur at times. They may occur and disappear again – with varies in strength and duration. The reactions vary from person to person.
Some can get over the reactions quickly, and return to their daily life, while others can be affected in long periods of time. Strong reactions in the first month does not mean that it will continue for a long period of time.
If you are highly affected by the incident after four weeks, you should seek professional help. Start by contacting your own physician, who will evaluate if you need treatment, such as a psychologist.
If you are a member of the health insurance, Sygeforsikringen Danmark in group 1 or 2 you can be referred to a crisis counseling course with a psychologist. Your own physician or the duty doctor can refer you to a relevant psychologist. The course will consist of 12 consultations, which have to be begun within 6 months and end 12 months after the incident at the latest.
If you are burdened by these symptoms weeks or months after the incident, you should seek professional help
You may spend a lot of your strength on dealing with your own reactions. Accept if you are experiencing a period of time, where you cannot cope with your usual workload. Accept help from others, so they can relieve the pressure. Do not let the incident take over your life. Prioritise to spend time with people you love.
You may find it hard to concentrate – or your ability to feel motivation, light and joy can be challenged. Try to do what makes you happy.
Be aware that you may react differently than usual, when you are socialising with others – and accept that this is your current situation.
If the incident makes you feel as if you have lost your purpose in life, you should consider seeing a priest or a psychologist. They are professionals, who are accustomed to talking about the difficult aspects in life.
If you are a relative to a person, who have suffered a severe incident, it is natural that you may have strong feelings or reactions towards the situation.
Be aware of your own feelings and resources, even though you want to help and do what is best for the relative.
This is advice on how to help – immediately after the incident and in the long term.
A person, exposed to a severe incident, can be inclined to deny any occurrence of the incident. This is a normal reaction, which originates in the person’s need to protect themselves. A version of this reaction is to suppress any emotional pain. It can cause problems for the destressed person, if they refuse to open up and talk about the incident.
What to be aware of when you want to help – it can be a very delicate balance
REMEMBER: Your role as a relative is to help the distressed person seek professional help or counseling. You can find contact information below.
You are, as a relative, a valuable support, but it is important that you are aware of your own limitations.
It is not uncommon that relatives need professional help. Contact your physician, a social worker or a psychologist. Some finds help in talking to a priest.
Both the person, who experienced a severe incident and their relatives, may need professional
help. Here is an overview of some of the relevant offers that can be utilised:
Outside business hours, you can contact the duty doctor in acute situations. The duty doctor can be reached every day of the year from 4 pm – 8 am.
The psychiatric emergency department is open round-the-clock, every day of the year. The department is only used for emergencies.
Please, call ahead of your visit or show up at the emergency department at the psychiatric hospital in Aalborg. The address for the psychiatric hospital is Mølleparkvej 10, 9000 Aalborg. When you show up at the emergency department, a nurse will attend to you. If necessary, you are offered a conversation with a doctor.