As the nation tries to comprehend and cope with the tragedy in Connecticut, which has taken so many lives, conversations turn to several issues including post-traumatic stress.
State police personnel led children from the school, following the shooting. (Courtesy of Shannon Hicks, NewtownBee.com / December 14, 2012 via Hartford Courant)Mayo Clinic's Edward T. Creagan, M.D. offers advice when helping someone cope with stress brought on by a traumatic event.
A person with acute stress disorder (ASD) has stress symptoms during the first month after the traumatic event. If your loved one has symptoms that last longer than a month and make it hard to go about daily routines, go to work or school, or handle important tasks, he or she could have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Whether your loved one has ASD or PTSD, assessment and counseling (psychotherapy) by a professional can make a critical difference in recovery. Encourage him or her to talk to a doctor or trained mental health provider. You can also help through supportive listening — without attempts to "fix" the situation.
Be willing to listen, but don't push. Make sure your loved one knows that you want to hear about his or her feelings. But if the person isn't ready or willing to talk about it, don't push. Just reassure your loved one that you'll be there if and when he or she is ready.
Choose a time to talk. When you're both ready to talk, choose a time and place where you'll be free of distractions and interruptions. Then truly listen. Ask questions if you don't understand something. But avoid any urges to second-guess, to give advice or to say, "I know just how you feel."
Recognize when to take a break. If you sense that the conversation is becoming too intense for your loved one, suggest that you stop for now and take up the conversation again on another day. Then follow through.