(Written by Terri Howard, FEI Senior Director)

Any crisis event, whether manmade or natural, can have a traumatic impact on the human psyche. This impact tests the resilience of those who experience it. How people react to crises and traumatic events, along with the factors that promote resilience or increase the risk for problems following trauma, plays a major part in their ability to heal.

People respond to crisis events in different ways. Most survivors have intense feelings after a traumatic experience but quickly recover; others have more difficulty, especially those who have had previous traumatic experiences, who are faced with ongoing stress, or who lack support from friends and family and will need additional help.

According to experts in the field, people are usually surprised that their reactions to trauma last longer than expected. It may take weeks, months or even years to fully integrate into a new normal. Those affected by traumatic events often become resilient by establishing a support network and reaching out to others with whom they can talk and share their experiences.

Many will get through this period of traumatic reaction with the help and support of family and friends, but sometimes family and friends may push people to “get over it” before they’re ready (if this is the case, it’s important to let them know such responses are not helpful right now, though their attempts to help are appreciated). Others find individual, group or family counseling helpful, and in particular Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a phenomenally rapid and wonderful therapeutic method for healing.

The key concept to remember is connection—ask for help, support, understanding and opportunities to talk whenever ready and possible.

The Chinese character for crisis is a combination of two words: danger and opportunity. People who fully engage in recovery from trauma discover unexpected benefits. As they gradually heal their wounds, survivors find they are also developing inner strength, compassion for others, increased self-awareness and—often the most surprising—a greater ability to experience joy and serenity than ever before.

*This is part of a series promoting May 2016 as Mental Health Awareness Month. You can now read all of FEI’s entries.