ARTICLE TRADUIT EN ANGLAIS sur La prise en charge des traumatismes consécutifs aux attentats : Care for people traumatized by the attacks How to take care of, support and understand them
Dr Muriel Salmona, Paris, 16 July 2016
president Association Mémoire Traumatique et Victimologie
Article en français :
La prise en charge des traumatismes consécutifs aux attentats
After the emotional shock of the first days that all victims and those around them have felt, what will happen to these people over the next weeks, months, years? How do we take care of them? How do we support the victims, their families, and also the witnesses of these attacks?
The psychological care of every person affected by the attacks is essential.
Atrocious terrorist acts are extremely traumatic events for all those who have been victims and all those who have been more or less directly involved: their relatives, those who have rescued them or have been witnesses of the attacks, without forgetting all those who have already experienced criminal acts and whose trauma was reactivated, and even all those who have been exposed to traumatic images and repeated information.
Psychological trauma is genuine neuropsychological injuries causing great suffering. They require immediate care, which is usually proposed as a matter of urgency in the framework of the medical-psychological emergency units.
However, psychotraumatic disorders frequently set in for a long time, sometimes for years, sometimes in a lagged manner, with severe repercussions on the health of traumatized persons. So it is imperative to continue to support and provide them with specialized care.
Psychologically resuscitate victims
As a first step, traumatized persons need to be rescued, secured and protected from stress. It is necessary to calm their distress and to take them out of their state of shock and freeze. We have to psychologically resuscitate them, to help them to resume the course of their thinking, which was interrupted at the time of the trauma, to speak to them, to comfort them and bring them back into the human world.
They also need to be heard, supported and understood. It is important they can share their emotions, fears and questioning without feeling guilty, without feeling that they could be embarrassed or inadequate. Furthermore, they need to be informed about post-traumatic disorders, and they must be told that their reactions are normal and universal in such a situation of extreme violence.
To get rid of such trauma, to soothe such a terrible moral pain, and very often a feeling of guilt and torturing impotence (survivor’s syndrome), is a time of repair and psychological integration. During this period one cannot escape elaborating, and putting into words and meaning everything that has been experienced and felt at the time of the attacks and after. One cannot escape elaborating on what happened, on the terrorists and their strategies, on the socio-political context.
The long and very heavy exertion of mourning is also to be carried out.