Crisis events happen when we least expect them. By its very nature, a crisis event is an event with an unexpected, large-scale impact that can result in harm to humans or death, causing the majority of those involved to experience severe trauma and need for assistance. Such crisis events are, for example, fires, natural disasters, nuclear and toxic waste accidents, terrorist attacks, school shootings, suicides and attempted suicides, car accidents, accidents at work, domestic violence, and crimes, including murder, assault, robbery, abuse, and sexual abuse.
Some of these events affect a single person or family, while others may affect a larger number of people in a community, county, or entire country. Although these crisis events affect all the people directly involved in some way, their reactions and feelings may differ. How someone responds depends on many factors, such as the nature of the event, past experiences, existing support, cultural background, and age.
Being in the center of a crisis event triggers shock reactions. You may feel that none of this has happened or that it is just a bad dream. It is the brain's way of protecting us from the seriousness of the event, just like laughing, crying, or screaming. The body can experience what has happened through shaking, vomiting, urination, or diarrhea. Inability to feel emotions, pain, cold, heat, hunger, or fatigue may occur. They usually pass within a few minutes to a few days.
The shock state is followed by the reaction phase. This is the time when one starts to realize what happened. Each person reacts in their own way, but it is natural to feel big mood swings. Sadness, anger, despair, guilt, relief, and all other feelings can alternate rapidly or occur simultaneously. Problems with sleeping and eating, great fatigue, and difficulty concentrating may occur. There may be a desire to be busy all the time or, the other way round, an inability to do anything at all. The most common activities can be forgotten.
The shock and reaction phase is followed by a longer processing phase that culminates in recovery from the crisis. During this time, making sense of what happened, coming to terms with it, and, step by step, returning to everyday life takes place. It is important to know that getting there may not be in the order described, but a person may swing back and forth between the stages before final recovery.
- What to do?
After a crisis event, you can support yourself if:
- You try to eat, drink enough fluids, sleep, and wash. Satisfying basic needs contributes to improving well-being.
- You are with a person(s) who are supportive and with whom you feel safe and cared for. You don't have to talk about your feelings and experiences if you don't feel ready.
- You do something physically active. Any kind of exercise invigorates both mental and physical health.
- You avoid the use of alcohol and other addictive substances. They can further amplify big feelings.
- You can also find comfort from pets, comfortable clothing, and objects that have a special meaning for you.
- Breathing exercises can help calm the body and mind.
- Where to turn?
If you feel bad at any time after a crisis event and during the recovery process, you can get help and support:
- from victim support workers in each county
- from the victim support from telephone counselors on the crisis telephone number 116 006 (open 24/7)
- from the counselors of the crisis line via the web at www.palunabi.ee (chat window in the lower right corner of the page)
- On topics related to children, from telephone and online counselors on the Children's helpline number 116 111 and on the Children's helpline website.
- Emotional support and pastoral care on the number 116 123 every day between 10:00 and 24:00, and pastoral counselors are available on the same line from 16:00 to 24:00.
It is also possible to provide primary support to people affected by a crisis by providing psychological first aid.
- What is psychological first aid?
Crises can have long-term physical and emotional effects. When losing something important, people can experience a sense of loss if they lose a loved one, home, property, or job. A person can also experience losses that are primarily felt by themselves: loss of control and sense of dignity, well-being and hope, dreams, sense of security and trust. Psychological first aid is the first step in reducing the impact of such losses and giving people the support they need to cope. Psychological first aid activities include restoring a sense of security, assisting with meeting basic needs, obtaining information, and finding services.
In order to provide psychological first aid, the helper does not need to be a trained psychologist, psychiatrist, or other counselor - anyone can acquire the necessary first aid techniques to support people in a crisis situation.