Coping with traumatic events

Traumatic events can take many forms, including but not limited to accidents, sudden deaths, workplace incidents, violence, or acts of terrorism. Whatever the nature of a traumatic event, your experiences and reactions will be very personal to you.

The following pages offer guidance and support to both employees and employers on how to cope with these events and where to access further help and advice.

Employee's guide

Reactions to trauma

There are many different responses to a traumatic event. It is not unusual to feel unsettled in the first few days following such an incident.

Listed below are some of the responses you may experience all of which are normal reactions to trauma:

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Manager's guide

This guidance provides an outline of current best practice when supporting employees after a traumatic event in the workplace. If a staff member witnesses an event such as a sudden death or an accident in a department it can affect them deeply. Staff affected may look to their manager or their organisation for support. This document outlines how best to support the psychological needs of any individual or team.

The effect of a traumatic event

Initial reactions to a traumatic event vary depending upon the individuals involved and the circumstances of the event. It is likely that any immediate response might include a sense of shock and disbelief, which gradually subsides over the following hours and days. This sense of shock may be replaced by a range of feelings and reactions in the subsequent days. 

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Over the next two to three weeks people begin to make sense of what has occurred by reappraising events and often recounting them. Managers may need to make allowances for how this may affect an employee’s concentration and output at work. These are the usual reactions of individuals adjusting and adapting to an abnormal event.

For most employees the symptoms of distress have settled after a month. However for some, symptoms can persist.

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