When a Crisis Occurs
When frightening or upsetting events occur on our campus, on other college campuses or in the community, it can be very traumatic for a person. The campus community, and especially the Counseling Center, is here to support students who are struggling in reaction to events like these. We want to support the campus community in healing from these events and offer these tips for helping yourself and others.
Responses to Trauma
It is very normal to have a variety of emotional reactions to concerns about safety. Some common reactions include:
- Denial, shock, numbness
- Feeling vulnerable or unsafe
- Anxiety, panic, worry
- Irritability, anger, moodiness
- Being hyper-alert or vigilant
- Headaches, fatigue, sleep disturbances
- Helplessness or hopelessness
- Sadness, crying, despair
- Difficulty concentrating
- Withdrawal, isolation
- Remembering other traumas
- It is also not unusual to have no reaction at all
- Recognize your feelings and understand that they are a normal reaction to an upsetting situation. Give yourself time to heal.
- Talk about the experience. Talking about your feelings and thoughts is healing.
- Reach out to family and friends for support. Connecting to people can be comforting when traumatic events occur.
- Give someone a hug – touch can also be very healing.
- Take good care of yourself. Start simply by focusing on eating and sleeping well. Take care of your body.
- Get physical activity. It helps you release stress in the body.
- Learn relaxation exercises or meditation. Try these relaxation exercies on the Counseling Center's Website.
- Take it one day at a time. Set small manageable goals until you feel ready to manage everything you normally would.
- Keep your routines as much as possible. Structure your time to help you stay on track with your studies. Schedule breaks because it helps you keep your energy up.
How to Help a Friend or Family Member
- Listen and empathize. Be supportive and non-judgmental.
- If they aren’t ready to talk about it, respect their need for space. Let them talk about it when they feel ready. Tell them you are ready to listen when they are ready to talk.
- Respect the person’s need for privacy.
- Ask the person what they need in terms of support. If it’s ok with them, increase contact and check in with them more often.
- Reinforce the feeling of safety when you can. Help them problem solve around situations or times when they don’t feel safe.
- Offer praise for getting through a difficult situation.
- It’s normal for people to struggle and have emotional reactions to traumatic situations. Believe in their resilience. Just because they are having emotional reactions to the situation, doesn’t mean they can’t handle it. It doesn’t mean they won’t be ok. Its just part of their process of getting better. Normalize that they are allowed to have reactions. Express your faith in their ability to get through the feelings and to find healing.
- Refer them for counseling if you see them unable to function (not sleeping, eating, or going to class or work) or feeling stuck after a significant period of time.
- Counseling Center 607-436-3368
- Health Center 607-436-3575
- University Police 607-436-3550
- Student Development Office 607-436-3353
- Residential Community Life 607-436-3182
- Office of Student Diversity and Advocacy 607-436-3353
- Gender & Sexuality Resource Center 607-436-2190
- Employee Assistance Program 607-436-2452
Thanks to Binghamton University and Dartmouth University Counseling Centers for their contributions to this essay.