Common reaction to traumatic events and news

Following a traumatic event, you may experience any of the following emotions. Please remember this is a normal reaction as the healing process takes place.

Everybody’s individual experience will be different, and different people will react in a different way. You may find that your reaction is delayed.

Some common emotional responses are:

  • Shock, numbness
  • Confusion
  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Anxiety, worrying, panic
  • Jumpiness, hyper-vigilance
  • Guilt
  • Feeling of helplessness
  • Sadness, depression
  • Fatigue
  • Disturbing images or memories
  • Nausea, headaches
  • Feeling vulnerable or unsafe
  • Social withdraw
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anger and blame of others
  • Numbness or feeling like you are not reacting 

Reasons for feeling anxious during and after traumatic events

There are many reasons why you may feel distressed after an event. It may be because:

  • Someone you care about was injured or passed away, and you are grieving over your loss.
  • You are supporting your children who are traumatised.
  • Those events remind you of past distressing events in your life.
  • You worry about your safety.
  • People around you continue to show signs of stress due to the events.

Coping with these reactions

Below are some helpful tips that could help you and those who are close to you cope with stress reactions:

  • Allow yourself to experience those thoughts and feelings (even if you are not directly affected).
  • Talk openly about your thoughts and feelings to someone you trust.
  • Take time to look after yourself – make sure you keep doing things that you enjoy (eg. taking walks, hobbies, music, reading etc.).
  • Allow others to experience their thoughts and feelings, remembering that their reactions and timing of reactions may be different to yours.
  • Limit your exposure to social media and media reports, and monitor how the information may affect you.
  • Spend time with people you care about, including family and friends.
  • Seek support.

Seeking support

If you need to talk to a trained counsellor, free call or text 1737 from your mobile phone.

There are a number of services on campus you can contact for help at UC:

  • Student Care 
    (https://www.canterbury.ac.nz/support/needtotalk) – Student Care can provide you a place to talk to someone if you do not know what to do, and also have a team of dedicated Student Advisors for both domestic and international students.
  • UC Health Centre
    (https://www.canterbury.ac.nz/healthcentre) – you can make an appointment to talk to a health professional including nurses, doctors and counsellors to help you get through this difficult time. If you need to be seen straight away, please tell the Health Centre reception staff that your situation is urgent; they will then find a health professional you can talk to.
  • UCSA Advocacy and Welfare 
    (https://ucsa.org.nz/student-support/advocacy-welfare/) can help you if you are experiencing financial difficulties at this time, including support with food, and can help you communicate with your teaching staff and apply for extensions and Special Consideration if you are finding your study is being affected; and
  • UC Chaplains 
    (https://www.canterbury.ac.nz/support/health/chaplains), who are available if you need someone to talk to.

There are also additional resources and support services in the community that you can access from home, and can assist non-students who you know have been affected are:

  • Lifeline: 0800 543 354
  • Need To Talk: 1737 (free text or phone)
  • Victim Support: 0800 842 846
  • The Ministry of Health has developed two resources with 1737 to assist those in mental distress as a result of the traumatic event in Christchurch. View the resources.The resources are available in English, Arabic, Farsi, Indonesian, Malay, Somali, Turkish and New Zealand Sign Language. The Ministry is working to translate these documents into multiple languages and this page will be updated as translations become available.

Supporting Each Other

International students and students from minority groups may be feeling especially vulnerable or affected. Please remember to check-in with one another, ask “Are you okay?”, and encourage each other to contact family and loved ones (especially those outside of Christchurch) as often as they need to.

If there is anything they need, please encourage them to contact the many support services available both inside and outside the University community.

If you are concerned about a friend, flatmate, or other acquaintance who may not be reaching out but still needs assistance, please contact any of the above services who may be able to get in touch with that person.

After the Christchurch Earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, people from all across the city came together to support each other, and create new feelings of community and mutual support. Difficult circumstances can often unite people. Many people within our emergency services and the general public risked their own safety to help those who were suffering. We believe that our city and community will respond with that same spirit of togetherness and mutual support again.

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