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 Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Lada became a symbol of Russia’s failure to keep up with Western economies  

Our sanctions will not cripple Russia. It is doing a lot of the dirty work itself

Hamish McRae
The Israeli ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, has been dubbed ‘Bibi’s brain’  

Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire

Patrick Cockburn
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz