How you can help someone suffering from fear or anxiety.

Yesterday Sydney suffered a terrible incident. An incident that we’re not used to in this typically peaceful city. An incident that was horrific especially for the victims of the siege, but that has also had a strong ripple effect across the entire city, state and country.

When such events occur, they can bring up intense emotions, not just for those involved directly in the tragedy.

For help in handling those strong feelings, we spoke to Dr Josey Anderson of the Black Dog Institute.

The first thing to remember when dealing with an incident like this one is that it’s normal to have a strong reaction. “Everybody will have feelings of concern around what happened. It’s how people process that, and how they deal with it that might vary depending on what they’ve experienced in the past,” says Dr Anderson.

“What might be going on will obviously depend on their own past experience, and their religious affiliation. If people are of the Muslim faith, they might have specific concerns. Or if they have had traumatic events in their lives before, this might bring those traumas to mind.”

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If someone close to you does express feelings of anxiety or fear, the first step should always be to hear them out.

“If there are other difficulties going on in a person’s life, that might make them more prone to feeling anxious about what has happened. I think the best thing to do first is to listen to them. Don’t try to come up with easy solutions. Just listen to their expressions of anxiety and reassure them that they’re not alone.”

If the stress and fear continues to have an impact over a medium term, then it might be time to seek out professional help.  “If someone’s sleep is disturbed for more than one or two nights, or if they develop other symptoms associated with anxiety then I’d encourage them to go and seek help from those nearest and dearest to them, and professional help, starting with their GP. If the kinds of worries that they have are sort of out of the ordinary, or seem to go beyond the expectations you would have for people who weren’t directly involved in this, then that’s when it’s time to consult a professional.” She adds “It’s also important to remember that there are agencies like Lifeline where people can get immediate counselling to talk through their fears and anxieties.”


6 sings you’re stressed, and what to do about it

Finally, Dr Anderson recommends really monitoring yourself, and others in how they’re engaging with this terrible tragedy. “I think that people are inevitably going to be engaged with the media coverage around the event, but if you find that this becomes a preoccupation rather than something that passes, or that it’s interfering with your sleep, appetite or ability to go about your normal daily work then I think that it is really an indication that it is preoccupying you, to your detriment and it’s something you should no longer engage with.”

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Times of fear and crisis are testing for all of us. They can be especially difficult for those who have experienced trauma in the past. That is why it is so important that we come together, be there for each other, and listen with open hearts today, and into the future.

If you or a loved one is experiencing significant distress, the number for Lifeline is 13 11 14. Call them any time. 

With thanks to The Black Dog Institute for their help with this piece.