Trauma recovery after the attack in Liège / Luik

For everybody who is involved in the shocking events in Luik/Liège and wants to know more about trauma recovery and how to help: a quick guide to some good, informative websites (en Français il y a un blog de la Croix-Rouge de Belgique, voor Nederlandstalige websites zie onderaan deze pagina) and a few tips.

To start with the tips. Things that relatives, friends, and professionals can help survivors with and inform them about, based on international expert consensus (see the article by Hobfoll et al. below, and the manual for  Psychological First Aid):

  1. Promote a sense of safety. Make sure survivors feel as comfortable as possible, and reassure them that they are safe now (in Liège/Luik we can assume that this is really the case).
  2. Promote calming. For survivors who are overwhelmed by emotions (e.g. a panic attack), help them to breathe slowly (with an emphasis on breathing out) and to be aware of their body (e.g., feet on the ground) and surroundings.
  3. Promote a sense of self- and community efficacy. It is important for survivors to feel in control (as opposed to in the traumatic situation). Empower survivors by facilitating their own decision making. It often helps to pick up normal routines as soon as possible.
  4. Promote connectedness. Social support turns out to be one of the most important predictors of recovery. Help survivors to activate their network and receive both emotional and material support (e.g., have someone cook a meal).
  5. Instill hope. Most people are resilient and will recover from a traumatic event without needing professional help. Survivors who are optmisitic and feel confident about their capacitie to recover are more likely to experience a good outcome.

Regarding good websites:

  • For young people: Nahetziekenhuis is a good Dutch website about recovery from traumatic injury. This one was made by Headspace after the Australian bushfires and has some good information in English.
  • For adults: the Dutch tip sheets by the Institute for Psychotrauma are helpful. The US National Center for PTSD also provides a lot of information (focus on veterans but many things are relevant for civilians too).
  • For parents: the information on is made for teachers but equally relevant for parents. In English, there are tip sheets about helping preschoolers, school-age children, and adolescents after trauma, made by the U.S. National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN). Aftertheinjury from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is also very informative.
  • For professionals: the complete Psychological First Aid manual is very comprehensive. This is the link to the full guide by the NCTSN
  • For teachers: this website is made for Dutch speaking teachers who work with children after traumatic events. For a short overview in English see my earlier post on supporting children in the classroom after trauma, and see also the toolkit for educators by the NCTSN.

The article by Hobfoll and colleagues:
Hobfoll SE, Watson P, Bell CC, Bryant RA, Brymer MJ, Friedman MJ, Friedman M, Gersons BP, de Jong JT, Layne CM, Maguen S, Neria Y, Norwood AE, Pynoos RS, Reissman D, Ruzek JI, Shalev AY, Solomon Z, Steinberg AM, & Ursano RJ (2007). Five essential elements of immediate and mid-term mass trauma intervention: empirical evidence. Psychiatry, 70 (4) PMID: 18181708

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