Leslie Carrick-Smith: Community spirit will be invaluable for those coping with the shooting trauma

The trauma: Experiences like this tend to sharpen people's sense of their mortality; how quickly life can be wiped out

Share
Related Topics

From events such as Hungerford, Hillsborough and Dunblane, we have learned not to leap in with psychological expertise straight away. We have to recognise that people are individuals and deal with them as such.

After the sense at first of unreality and disassociation, that "this is happening", followed by a huge sense of helplessness at the inability to control the situation, it is by no means inevitable that everybody will go on to suffer from post-traumatic stress; some will and some will not. It's not entirely predictable and might be to do with personality issues and previous experiences. There can also be a delayed onset.

Post-traumatic results come in three areas: firstly, extreme, intensive recall through dreams and nightmares, flashbacks, which can be smells or noises as well, and feelings that it is happening again. Secondly, there can be blocking of recall or avoiding anything that reminds you of it.

Avoidance can be more general, spreading to relationships with other people, such as finding it hard to express emotions, being less motivated or disinterested. And sufferers can be over-aroused, suffering bad sleep, the inability to concentrate or remember things, have outbursts of irritability or temper or physical reactions like stomach churning or clamminess. It's not a predictable disease, it's pretty arbitrary. Some people may need very long-term support; others may not.

There are psychological techniques for debriefing people early after trauma and it is probable that support networks will come into action. Employers, for instance, have a duty to provide support for their staff. The whole thing has to be very gently brought out of people's minds and dealt with. There's no "cure" in suppressing it forever.

But it is terribly important that support of the form known as "debriefing" is not forced on everyone, as for some people it will be helpful but for others it could make things worse.

Support within the community really is key, for people to be with each other, whether that is just providing physical closeness or aid with practicalities. Bereaved people, for example, are going to have to deal with legalities and all those sorts of things and they need to be supported and accompanied through this. Anybody can do that – it is the community spirit that people talk about.

If something like this had happened in a major city the effects on the individuals concerned would be no less traumatic, but the regional effects would be more diffuse. In a community of this kind, we are in small towns and rural areas where there is a strong possibility that just about everybody will know somebody who was either killed or involved. It is a loss and shock to the whole community, as it was in Dunblane. But in a small community there is less chance that people will be left emotionally on their own. The community support is likely to be stronger.

People will feel extremely vulnerable. Experiences like this tend to sharpen people's sense of their own mortality; how quickly life can be wiped out. It makes them question their own future.

All people are different but they do tend to adjust. You don't get over this sort of thing, but people can learn to live with it and the feeling of threat tends to go down. But there's no doubt that some may remain affected for the rest of their lives. While people will laugh and smile again, for some their outlook may never be quite the same.

The writer is a forensic psychologist who worked with the families of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Manager with some Agile experience

£45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsf...

Data/ MI Analyst

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are cur...

Secondary Supply Teachers to work in Peterborough

£110 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cambridge: Supply teachers required fo...

Project Manager (retail, upgrades, rollouts)

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Project...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Francois Hollande at the Paris summit on Iraq with ministers from Saudi Arabia and Bahrain on 15 September  

What's going to happen in Syria and Iraq? A guide to the new anti-Isis coalition's global strategy

Jonathan Russell
The colours of autumn leaves are among the many pleasures of the coming season  

In Sickness and in Health: As autumn arrives, more of us should wear high-vis clothes

Rebecca Armstrong
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week