Maintaining a Healthy State of Mind:
For High School Students
Terrorist events-like the Oklahoma City bombing; September 11, 2001, attacks; school shootings; and the DC sniper shootings-may upset us. They may cause us to question our own safety, the safety of our families and friends, and what is right and wrong. These types of questions are natural.
The following information can help us prepare and cope more easily with a possible terrorist attack. It describes common feelings and reactions we may have. It also suggests things we can do to get ready. This knowledge can reduce our fear and help us prepare for, withstand and bounce back from these kinds of events.
Why can acts of terrorism be so upsetting and stressful?
Acts of terrorism can have such a major impact because:
- You don't expect them.
- You aren't familiar with them.
- You can't control them.
What can I do beforehand?
It makes sense to do what you can ahead of time, before anything goes wrong. As a teenager, you can:
- Help your family or household members make a plan. Decide how to stay in touch with them in an emergency situation. Help set up a meeting place.
- Have a list of phone numbers and e-mail addresses you might need. Carry some change for pay phones, a phone card or cell phone. If you don't have a cell phone, know where to find a phone, cell phone or Internet connection you can use in an emergency.
- Learn about your school's and town's preparedness plans.
- Talk to your parents. Help them prepare a disaster supplies kit. Keep it in a safe place that's easy to find.
- Learn more about how you react to stress and how to handle it.
If a terrorist attack happens, what will I probably feel like?
While people react differently to things that are stressful, you probably can do a good job of working through problems and pain. Most people recover in weeks or months from the following kinds of natural reactions to a terrible event:
- Shock, numbness and disbelief.
- Difficulty concentrating on school work, your job, friends or family.
- Eating too much or too little.
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Nightmares.
- Thinking too much about what happened.
- Being afraid for your safety and the safety of your family, friends, police and firefighters.
- Feeling sad about the people who were injured or died.
- Having upsetting thoughts or pictures in your mind of what happened. They can pop into your head, or come when you're reminded about the painful event.
- Anger, bad temper and not trusting others. You might argue and get into fights.
- Feeling guilty or helpless.
- Feeling restless-kind of uneasy or worried.
- Headaches, stomachaches, skin rashes, body pains and worse allergic reactions.
If a terrorist attack happens, how can I help myself feel better?
Most people find that it helps to talk about what happened and how it makes them feel. If you feel like talking, it's a good idea to find friends, family or other people you trust who have lived through the same kinds of things and talk to them. It's also a good idea to take care of yourself physically. Eating right, exercising, getting plenty of rest and returning to your routine should help you feel better. It also helps if you can find meaning in what happened or how you handled things.
How will I know if I need help to cope with what I'm feeling?
It's possible to try these ways to feel better and still not be able to get back to your regular routine. You might need help from a counselor if, after several weeks or so, you:
- Suffer so much or for so long you are not sure you can stand it.
- Can't think clearly or do your school work.
- Can't handle helping out in your family (like caring for brothers or sisters, or helping fix meals).
- Are doing yourself injury or disease by:
- Drinking or smoking too much.
- Using street drugs to help feel better.
- Using too much prescribed medication.
- Speeding or careless driving.
- Having unprotected sex.
- Threatening, hurting or fighting people.
- Are still have eating or sleeping problems, or are getting sick from stress.
- Feel like hurting yourself or others.
How would I get outside help?
Asking for support may sometimes feel uncomfortable; however seeking the assistance you need can help you better cope. You can start by talking to one or more of these people:
- Your family doctor
- A school counselor
- A pastoral care counselor
- A trained mental health professional
- A health care provider
- Your community health center or the local mental health clinic
- Mental health groups (found on the Internet or in the phone book)
What should I do if a terrorist attack occurs?
If you are prepared, it will be less stressful to take action to deal with whatever comes up. You can:
- Use the plan you and your family developed.
- Find trusted, safe sources of information.
- Stay informed and follow official instructions to protect yourself and your family.
- Avoid watching replays on TV of the event that is disturbing to you.
- Remind yourself that feelings of upset will fade and disappear.
- Be patient, especially with yourself. Find time to relax. Find a place to go where you feel safe so you can figure out how you're feeling and what you want to do.
- Return to your regular routine (like school, sports, part-time job, etc.) as soon as possible.
- Keep up your exercise and good health habits. Get plenty of rest.
- Stay in touch with friends, family, church activities, neighbors etc.
- Talk about your thoughts and feelings with people you trust.
- Spend time with family and people you love.
- Ask for help when you need it.
Further information about how to cope with terrorism also can be found online from the-
American Red Cross at www.redcross.org/services/disaster/0,1082,0_319_,00.html
American Psychiatric Association at
Federal Emergency Management Agency at www.fema.gov/hazards/terrorism/terror.shtm
National Mental Health Association at www.nmha.org/reassurance/youngadults.cfm
National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center at
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network at
U.S. Department of Homeland Security at http://www.ready.gov/index2.html
Create an emergency communications plan.
Create a Family Disaster Plan
- Know what to do in case household members are separated in a disaster. Disaster situations are stressful and can create confusion. Keep it simple.
- Pick two places to meet:
- Right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, like a fire.
- Outside your neighborhood in case you cannot return home or are asked to leave your neighborhood.
- Pick two out-of-town contacts:
- A friend or relative who will be your household’s primary contact.
- A friend or relative who will be your household’s alternative contact.
Both adults and children should know the primary and alternative contacts’ names, addresses, and home and cell telephone numbers, or carry the information with them. In addition, include these contact numbers on your pet’s identification tags, or use a national pet locator service that someone could call to report finding your pet.
Separation is particularly likely during the day when adults are at work and children are at school. If household members are separated from one another in a disaster, they should call the primary contact. If the primary contact cannot be reached, they should call the alternative contact. Remember, after a disaster, it is often easier to complete a long-distance connection than a local call.
Make sure that adults and children know how to tell the contact where they are, how to reach them, and what happened or to leave this essential information in a brief voice mail.
- Discuss what to do if a family member is injured or ill.
- Discuss what to do in the rare circumstance that authorities advise you to shelter-in-place.
- Discuss what to do if authorities advise you to evacuate. [link – to come]
- Plan how to take care of your pets. Pets (other than service animals) usually are not permitted in public shelters or other places where food is served. Plan where you would take your pets if you had to go to a public shelter where they are not permitted. Many communities are developing emergency animal shelters similar to shelters for people. Contact your local emergency management agency to find out about emergency animal shelters in your community, in the event that you have nowhere else to go and need to go to public shelter with your animals.
- Post emergency numbers (fire, police, ambulance, etc.) by telephones. You may not have time in an emergency to look up critical numbers.
Note: You can adapt the Family Disaster Plan to any household—couples, related or unrelated individuals, adults without children, adults with children. Even people who live alone should create a Disaster Plan.
Establish a meeting place.
Having a predetermined meeting place away from your home will save time and minimize confusion if your home is affected or the area is evacuated. You may want to make arrangements to stay with a family member or friend in case of an emergency. Be sure to include any pets in these plans since pets are not permitted in shelters and some hotels will not accept them.
This information is provided by the American Red Cross and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
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Last Updated 6/7/2005 11:14:59 AM