Story at a glance
- A mob of President Trump’s supporters staged an insurrection on the United States Capitol.
- The violent attack was shown nationwide on television and has been documented widely by journalists.
- Events such as this one can cause trauma and have serious consequences on mental health.
Wherever you were and whatever you were doing when the United States Capitol was attacked, it’s not a day you’re likely to forget soon. Traumatic events are marked by a sense of horror, helplessness, serious injury or the threat of serious injury or death. On Wednesday, some Americans suffered all of that — and more.
Even if you were not physically harmed by the attack, the scenes of violence and destruction captured that day are enough to cause stress for anyone. Symptoms may range from difficulty focusing on work or other tasks in the following days to feeling emotionally detached.
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So how do you cope? First, you need to acknowledge what happened and how you are feeling. More than anything, this requires time and space to process the tragedy you witnessed. But as some have pointed out, not everyone has that luxury.
A friend just said to me "Are we supposed to be working during the coup?" and honestly it was the most American thing I've ever heard.— Dani/Tober: Actually a Witch (@thequeengeek) January 6, 2021
Still, to the extent that you can, communicate how you are feeling with those around you and ask for support, whether that comes in the form of extended deadlines from your boss or patience from your family. For some, sticking to a routine can be helpful, but don’t push yourself too hard.
"What is happening in the world around you, and the grief you feel because of it, is so much more important than your ability to complete a task or respond to an email," wrote Anne Helen Peterson, author of "Culture Study."
It also takes an active effort to reject negative coping mechanisms, such as self-medicating with drugs, alcohol or even misinformation. In the aftermath of such a tragedy, you may be desperate for ways to explain away your feelings, but in the long term, this will only hamper your recovery. Try not to “doomscroll” — continuously scrolling through social media or the internet and consuming large amounts of bad new— and instead, rely on verified, factual information to educate yourself and your family, including your children, who may be struggling to understand their own experience and feelings.
"Many of us are justifiably experiencing shock, fear and anger ... yet becoming paralyzed or overwhelmed by those emotions can contribute to hopelessness and mental health difficulty at a time when we are already dealing with so many challenges as a nation," Afton Kapuscinski, director of the Psychological Services Center at Syracuse University, told USA Today. "A pitfall that often increases the likelihood of being 'stuck' is failing to look at the full picture and focusing more narrowly on a single event or series of upsetting events."
All this aside, you need to know when and where to ask for help. While only you can decide the former, here are a few resources for anyone struggling with trauma:
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America
- National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- National Institute on Mental Health
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Alliance
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency
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