EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

April 29, 2013

Column:

Many citizens from the Merrimack Valley were directly affected by the recent bombings at the Boston Marathon. Many more were indirectly impacted as they stood by as innocent “emotional hostages” the following week waiting for news that the imminent danger and threat was thwarted.

Fortunately, this happened without incurring tremendous collateral damage to civilians once the alleged criminals were captured by our brave public safety officials. Enough cannot be said for the officers who risked life and limb in their duty to “protect and serve.”

Shock and numbness is a normal response to the traumatic event, which serves the purpose of allowing us to cope in the immediate aftermath. Lately, the shock is beginning to wear off as we “thaw out” and many citizens are now struggling with a number of new emotions and reactions.

In addition to caring for ourselves first, it is important to be aware of our children, our most vulnerable population. This past week, many parents have expressed that their children are exhibiting signs of fear, loneliness, and confusion. At the core of these signs is the feeling that they do not feel “safe.”

The question of “why” is on the minds of many, as healthy children and adults cannot wrap their head around the idea that there are people living among us who want to cause harm to others. We somehow believe if we can answer the “why”, we can prevent it from happening again. How parents answer the question is a personal one based on their own values, thoughts and opinions.

What the Trauma Intervention Program of Merrimack Valley (TIP) can offer are suggestions on how to help adults and children struggling with these reactions as we aim to prevent longer term consequences of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Not everyone who experiences a trauma will develop PTSD. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 3.5 percent of the U.S. adult population has PTSD. Offering quality support after the event can help minimize PTSD prevalence. Some initial signs to be aware of include: flashbacks and intrusive recollections; nightmares, either of the event or of other frightening things; intense anxiety and distress when reminded of the trauma; avoiding activities, places, thoughts, or feelings that remind one of the trauma; feeling detached from others and emotionally numb; irritability or outbursts of anger; difficulty concentrating and hypervigilance — being on constant “red alert.”

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