Distress is an understandable and normal response to trauma. Common causes of distress may be related to having been directly at risk from the events, being concerned about family and friends, witnessing injuries and the distress of others or being caught up in the panic and confusion at the time. In addition, feelings and memories related to previous experiences of disasters or other grief and loss may resurface. For some, where the harm has been caused intentionally, this may be an added source of stress and generate a sense of insecurity or distrust.

Frequent exposure to media coverage of the events, including visual images of destruction and loss, can have an adverse effect, particularly on children’s sense of safety. It is advisable to limit the amount of exposure to this type of media coverage.

For most people, these feelings usually settle over the early weeks, particularly as practical problems are solved and support provided. However, sometimes it is only later when frightening thoughts or images are recalled that some of the stressful effects start to show. While most people will manage with the support of family and friends, there are still times when someone may need some extra help and support.

People who readily use formal and informal support from family, friends or other support organisations are generally found to recover better from stressful situations. Sharing the information on this website with family and friends may help you, and help them to better support you.

Page Updated: Friday 3 January 2020
Contact page owner: NSW Ministry of Health