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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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Maintaining a Healthy State of Mind:

For Middle School Students

When we watch news reports about terrorist attacks or school shootings we may feel confused and scared. Maybe we worry about ourselves and the safety of our family and friends. Acts of terrorism disrupt our way of life and peace of mind. They can make us feel unsafe and afraid.

The following information can help us prepare for a possible terrorist event. The more we learn now, the easier it can be for us to deal with a disaster.

How might I feel after an act of terror?

Lots of people are able to work through painful feelings. Most of the time they recover in weeks or months. Uncomfortable feelings and reactions tend to fade and disappear. Some of the more common reactions are:

  • Shock, numbness and disbelief.
  • Having a hard time thinking clearly or focusing on school, friends and family.
  • Eating too much or too little.
  • Having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep and having bad dreams or nightmares.
  • Feeling sad, mad or afraid.
  • Crying more easily or wanting to cry.
  • Feeling grouchy, uneasy, worried or moody.
  • Feeling guilty that we are okay while others are not.
  • Feeling helpless.
  • Wanting to be alone a lot or not wanting to be alone at all.

These are common reactions. They may leave for a while and return when something reminds you of the disaster. You also may have stomachaches, headaches, skin rashes, more allergic reactions, more colds or a run-down feeling.

Why can acts of terrorism hit us so hard?

Acts of terrorism can have such a major impact because:

  • You don't expect them.
  • You aren't familiar with them.
  • You can't stop them from happening.

What can I do?

It makes sense to do what you can before an emergency, like an act of terrorism, happens. You can:

  • Make a plan with your family or the people you live with. Decide how to stay in touch with them if there is a disaster. Set up a meeting place.
  • Have a list of phone numbers and e-mail addresses you might need. Carry some change for pay phones, or know where to find a phone, cell phone or Internet connection to use if something goes wrong.
  • Learn about existing preparedness plans in your school and in your town.
  • Talk to your parents. Help them make a disaster supplies kit. Keep it in a safe place that is easy to find.
  • Learn more about how we react to stress and different ways to handle it.

If something bad happens, how can I help myself feel better?

It helps most people to talk about what happened and how it makes them feel. When 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 extra help to feel better?

Sometimes, even after you try most of these things, you still might not be able to get back to your regular routines. You might need help from a counselor if, after several weeks or so, you:

  • Suffer so much or for so long that you don't think you can stand it.
  • Can't think clearly or do your school work.
  • Have a hard time helping your family.
  • Are more likely to cause yourself injury or disease, by:
    • Drinking or smoking.
    • Using street drugs to help feel better.
    • Using too much medicine.
    • Being careless on skateboards, rollerblades, bikes, etc.
    • Having unprotected sex.
    • Threatening, hurting or fighting people.
  • Have eating or sleeping problems.
  • Feel like hurting yourself or others.

How would I get outside help?

Asking for help may sometimes feel uncomfortable; however seeking the assistance you need can help you better cope. It takes strength to ask for help.

You can start by talking to one of the following:

  • A parent or someone else who takes care of you.
  • Your family doctor.
  • A pastoral care counselor.
  • A school counselor or mental health professional.
  • Someone at your community health center or the local mental health clinic.

Online resources

Further information about how to cope with terrorism also can be found from the-

American Red Cross at www.redcross.org/services/disaster/0,1082,0_319_,00.html

Federal Emergency Management Agency at www.fema.gov/kids/

National Mental Health Association at www.nmha.org/reassurance/secondanniversary/kidschoolcopingtips.cfm

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at www.mentalhealth.samhsa.gov/publications/allpubs/KEN-01-0092/default.asp

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network at http://www.nctsnet.org/nccts/nav.do?pid=hom_main

U.S. Department of Homeland Security at www.ready.gov/index2.html




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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 10:15:00 AM