THE EVENT WAS DESIGNED TO HELP AND SUPPORT, NOT ONLY THOSE WHO WERE DIRECTLY INVOLVED IN A TRAUMATIC EVENT, BUT THOSE WHO WERE INDIRECTLY INVOLVED, INCLUDING THOSE WHO HELPED OTHERS OR HAD A LOVED ONE WHO WAS INVOLVED IN AN EVENT.
Headwaters Relief Organization hosted the “Resilience in the Aftermath of Disaster” event at the organization’s offices, on July 31, 2008, to mark the first anniversary of the I-35W bridge collapse.
The primary focus of the event was to assist those who have struggled in the aftermath of the I-35W bridge collapse and other weather-related events, such as the Hugo tornado and flooding in southeastern Minnesota. The event was designed to help and support, not only those who were directly involved in a traumatic event, but those who were indirectly involved, including those who helped others or had a loved one who was involved in an event.
“Aftermath: The Road to Resilience,” a film developed by the American Psychological Association, was shown during the event, followed by discussion sessions. Materials from the American Psychological Association were available to the public as were individuals trained in mental health support.
The event was offered through the joint efforts of the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Disaster Response Network, the American Psychological Association’s Public Education Campaign, the Minnesota Psychological Association, theAmerican Red Cross Twin Cities Area Chapter, as well as the Headwaters Relief Organization.
The following was issued by the American Red Cross Twin Cities Chapter as a Media Advisory:
TIPS FOR COPING WITH DISASTER ANNIVERSARIES – SOME MAY EXPERIENCE THE SAME FEELINGS THEY FELT 1-YEAR AGO
Minneapolis/St. Paul (July 31, 2008) – August 1, 2008 marks one-year since the 35W bridge collapse. As the anniversary approaches survivors, victim’s families, first responders, witnesses and others in the Twin Cities may re-experience many of the same feelings they felt a year ago.
Anniversary dates of traumatic events can reactivate thoughts and feelings from the original event and survivors may experience anxiety and depression. Some of the reactions those affected may experience around the 1-year anniversary of the 35W bridge collapse include:
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Loss of appetite.
- Irritable outbursts.
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep.
- Feelings of detachment from others.
Dr. Rebecca Thomley, a member of the Red Cross Mental Health Stress Team, offers the following tips to help people cope with traumatic anniversaries:
- Recognize and acknowledge feelings you may experience. Understand that your feelings are part of the recovery process.
- Find healthy ways to cope with your distress. Share memories and feelings with someone you trust or spend time with friends and family. Activities that allow your mind to focus on something other than the memories of the event are a good coping strategy for some people. Activities like reading, thinking or just taking a walk are also a good approach. Avoid reactions that become part of the problem such as drinking or using drugs.
- If someone you knew died in the bridge collapse engage in an activity that honors lost loved ones. You may want to plant a tree in their memory, make a donation to their favorite charity, participate in activities your loved one would have enjoyed or share happy memories with others. Consider volunteering; you may find that helping others actually helps you.
- Use your support system. Reach out to friends and family. Don’t isolate yourself.
- If you continue to feel overwhelmed, consider talking to a psychologist who can help you develop strategies to cope with your traumatic reactions.
Members of the Red Cross Mental Health Stress Team are licensed mental health professionals. They are among the volunteers who respond to over 300 local disasters a year with the Twin Cities Red Cross. For more information on tips for coping with disaster anniversaries or to interview a member of the Red Cross Mental Health Stress Team, please call Courtney Johnson at 612-702-7703.