How to take care of yourself if media images and stories are affecting you

The media images of first responders at the scene of a tragic incident can be difficult for first responders and their families to see.

If the images and stories you’re seeing are affecting you, the first thing to note is that this is a normal reaction.

“Of course you’re affected by this,” says Dominic Hilbrink, Senior Clinician at Fortem Australia. “It can make you wonder how you’d cope if you had to go to an incident like that, and it could also bring up memories of similar events that you have been to.

“Even the toughest of us gets touched by things like this.”

Here is some advice for taking care of yourself during this time:

Stay connected with those around you

“Talking about it is your best resource,” says Dominic. “Open it up for conversation with your family: how you’d feel if you were called out to an incident like that, and how your family would feel about it. Just talk about it.”

It’s okay to feel what you feel

There are many ways you might be feeling – anxious, angry, helpless, shocked, or other emotions – and they’re all normal. “As humans, we are wired to feel care and empathy for other humans, even strangers. Give yourself permission to feel whatever it is you feel,” Dominic says.

It’s also normal to feel glad

Some people will feel relieved that they weren’t involved or that their family is safe, and then feel guilty about thinking this way. “It’s okay to appreciate and enjoy the things you have,” says Dominic. “This is ultimately how we grow from tragedies like this. Reports actually show that people who have experienced tragedies want the rest of us to appreciate and value the things we have.”

Prioritise your self-care

“Your first task is to look after yourself in healthy ways,” says Dominic. “Do the things that you find soothing, and make sure you meet your basic needs like sleep, exercise. These daily routines and rituals can help to settle anxiety, stress and uncertainty.”

Seek additional support if you need it

“Having difficult feelings doesn’t mean you’re not coping; if you can use the resources you have to deal with it, that’s okay,” Dominic says. “But if you feel like you’re not coping or if you’d like to talk to someone neutral then please reach out.”

Our Resource Library contains more practical tips for taking care of your wellbeing