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March 22, 2020 at 7:19 pm · · Comments Off on COVID-19


Infectious diseases, like any life stressor, can challenge the way we cope. Learning about disasters on the news, from family or personal experience can evoke negative feelings, fears and anxiousness regarding   our personal safety. We experience increase worry about our family, friends, colleagues, and the community. Stressful events are also known to bring up memories of past traumatic events thereby compounding the distress that we already feel.

The Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) is one such infectious illness that currently poses significant risk to public health. It is important to remember that it is normal to be emotionally affected by these events and that there are steps we can take to help us cope.

While people vary in their response to a crisis, like that of COVID-19, it is likely that more people will see impacts on their mental health and well being, rather than actual physical illness. Persons vulnerable to react more strongly to the threat of a crisis include:

• Older people and people with chronic diseases who are at higher risk for COVID-19,
• Children and teens,
• People who are helping with the response to COVID-19, such as doctors, nurses, other health care providers, and first responders,
• Persons who have mental health conditions including problems with substance use,
• Persons who tend to worry – particularly about their health, or who have experienced a previous or recent traumatic event,
• Persons who live alone or have few social supports.

Please be mindful to care for yourself, friends, and family to help ameliorate the stress overload, and help enhance a stronger community.  Staying informed and taking guidance from experts to help you most accurately assess your personal risk of getting physically sick can help; or consulting expert sources such as infectious disease practitioners, family physicians or nurse practitioners, public health hotlines, or government websites.

Additional Resources:

nCOV and Stress

COVID-19 Coping Strategies

Bermuda Government:
World Health Organization:
US Centers for Disease Control:


Dealing with the Fear of the Unpredictable




Teens and COVID-19

March 22, 2020 at 6:52 pm · · Comments Off on Teens and COVID-19

Teens and COVID-19

Taking care of your family:
The threat of illness can be particularly upsetting to children and teens. Children and teens react, in part,
to what they see from the adults around them. When parents and caregivers deal with the COVID-19
calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children.
There are many things you can do to support your child or teen
• Give them the opportunity to talk about their concerns about the outbreak, tell them the truth,
reassure them, and let them know they can count on you.
• Let them know it is ok if they feel upset or scared and talk to them about ways to cope with their
• Limit your family’s exposure to news coverage of the event, including social media.
• Try to keep up with regular routines to the extent possible. If schools are closed, create a schedule for
learning activities and relaxing or fun activities; if organized activities are cancelled, try to engage in
the activity (or an adaptation of the activity) at home.
If you notice that your child or teen’s behaviour has changed significantly, discuss the situation with

Behavioural changes (listed below) may suggest a need to contact a regulated health care professional for additional help:
• Excessive crying or irritation in younger children
• Returning to behaviors they have outgrown (for example, toileting accidents or bedwetting)
• Changes in sleeping patterns (too much or too little) or appetite (eating too much or too little)
• Excessive worry or sadness
• Unhealthy eating or sleeping habits
• Irritability and “acting out” behaviors in teens
• Poor school performance or avoiding school
• Difficulty with attention and concentration
• Avoidance of activities enjoyed in the past
• Unexplained headaches or body pain
• Use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

( 2020 Canadian Psychological Association)

Additional Resources:

Children’s Booklet on Covid-19

Bermuda Government:

World Health Organization:

US Centers for Disease Control:

nCOV and Stress

Dealing with the Fear of the Unpredictable


Suicide Awareness

November 11, 2019 at 6:57 pm · · Comments Off on Suicide Awareness

Suicide Awareness

By Dr. K. P. Lanthier, C.Psych.

World Mental Health Day 2019 focused on suicide prevention. According to WHO, one person loses their life to suicide every 40 seconds. This means approximately 800,000 people take their own lives annually. Suicide is not “an American issue,” nor any one country’s issue, nor any one community’s issue. Suicide impacts individuals across the lifespan — from youth to the elderly — as well as across the world. Notably, suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15 to 29-year-olds and 79% of suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries. (APA, 2019).

Psychologists use evidence-based interventions in attempts to reduce loss of life by suicide. Interventions shown to be highly effective, address suicidal thoughts and behaviors, such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), safety plan interventions and crisis response planning.

Single risk factors do not predict suicide well. It is difficult to predict which people displaying risk factors ultimately will commit suicide. However, it is important to be aware of possible warning signs and to talk to kids or adults when they need help. As a friend or parent, you can help by talking and reaching out. It is a myth that if you mention suicide, you might plant the idea. By honestly and openly expressing your concerns, you can send an important message that you care and understand.

Recommend seeking professional help if you learn someone is struggling with thoughts of suicide. Seeing a psychologist can help. Therapy has helped many people that suffer from depression and other emotional difficulties. There is empirical evidence that most people who have a few sessions of therapy are better off than untreated individuals with emotional difficulties.

Death by suicide is always a tragic event. Death by suicide can trigger a host of complicated and confusing emotions. Please read APAs Suicide Coping Tips to help when coping from the loss of a loved one, or when helping a child or adult navigate such a loss.


Mother Day Blues

May 12, 2018 at 7:54 pm · · Comments Off on Mother Day Blues

Mother Day Blues

Dr. K.P. Lanthier, C.Psych.

Happy Mother’s Day is celebrated all over the world.  It was first deemed an official holiday in 1914 by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. This is a time to express our love and appreciation for the person that brought us into this world.  The word mother ought to conjure up images of hugs and kisses of our boo boos, or a memory of the aroma of a hot meal being prepared or of loving hands mending our clothing.  Yet, many people did not have these experiences growing up as children. Mother’s Day reminds them of what they never had, or what they would like to have.

Hearing such benign words such as “Happy Mother’s Day” can feel like a stabbing in the heart.  Many women avoid going out to public places on this Sunday to avoid the Happy Mother’s Day greeting.  Shopping the week prior to Mother’s Day can trigger bouts of sadness as the reminders of the celebration is in every step you take.  As I walked through town the Wednesday before Mother’s Day, retail outlets were stuffed with gifts for mother’s.  One would have to live on another planet not to know that Mother’s Day is approaching.  The radio broadcast, the television commercials, the news reports and television talk shows all offer their suggestions for Mother’s Day.  Wednesday was filled with person’s running around stressed, not relaxed, and certainly not happy.  The atmospheric pressure was high, and near strangers could be heard asking for suggestions of what to get their mother for Mother’s Day.  A sister was shopping on behalf of her brother to purchase the perfect gift for his wife as a first-time mom. Yes, Mother’s Day is stressful for non-mother’s and mother’s alike.  Relief and balance is restored on the Monday following the Sunday, finally when the dreaded day has passed.

Additionally, even women that choose to not become a mother can experience mild grief on this holiday event. The greeting of “Happy Mothers Day” can feel hurtful than cheerful.  It might bring up feelings of being a failure, being punished or unworthy as a woman.  These feelings are very strong for women that have difficulty conceiving. One thing that remains true is we all have DNA from a “mother,” despite ever knowing a mom, their possible absence or neglectful ways.  Therefore, Mother’s Day might be a painful reminder of the unsatisfying relationship you have with your mother.

With optimism, we hold onto mom as a happy reservoir of the joys of our childhood, the constant unyielding support that will guide us through the myriad of ups and downs that we face in the outside world.  By contrast, for some people, this is a day of mourning.  It is a mourning the mother you needed, wanted and deserved.

Women that suffer infertility, miscarriages, or child deaths may reject the commercialism of Mother’s Day.  For their emotions are not captured in the Hallmark greeting card or the Kay Jewellery commercials.  They must witness the joyful interactions of happy family’s playing together or those who have lost their mother’s must listen to friends plan gatherings to share with their mothers.  These are the dreaded seconds, minutes, hours, or days that can bring on the Mother Day blues.

Let’s acknowledge those mother’s that have mothered but now are motherless, acknowledge her motherhood, as well as her pain.  For that can be the greatest gift for a bereaved mother on Mother’s Day, the recognition of her motherhood, the validation that is often missed.  Friends and family can ease a grieving mother’s pain by a visit to her child’s gravesite, leave a memento and let her know.  Use the child’s name in conversation of a happy moment that you recall.  Don’t worry about opening a wound, their loved one is never far from their thoughts.  This will show the bereaved parent that their child is remembered by others. A story or just wishing the mother a peaceful day could relieve some of her tension. Birth mothers whose children may be placed in adoptive homes often experience a silent and isolating Mothers Day.  Show your acknowledgement of their motherhood with a call or text stating “I am thinking of you today.”

I myself have been guilty of not acknowledging my brother-in-law’s loss of his mother. As I reflect, it never really occurred to me that this could be an especially difficult day for him year after year.  My brother-in-law is in constant mourning, which undoubtedly is evermore heightened on Mother’s Day with the constant bombardment of mother anecdotes and media sentimentalities. Mother’s Day serves as a poignant reminder of what he’s lost.  Additionally, I have been remiss in observing my mother being motherless on Mother’s Day.  I honor her as my mother but am guilty of ignoring her mother day loss, as if her mother never existed on this day.  Well that’s about to change!

For childless mothers and motherless children honoring the spirit of their perished can be a soothing endeavor.  Begin with creating a new tradition, perhaps make a candle, wear a huge brim hat, donate to a charity in their name, plant a tree, wear a white carnation, create artwork, create a scrap book.  You might read her favourite author, watch her fondest movie or throw a themed luncheon with her favorite sound track.  For gone children, name a star after your child, cook a favourite meal, release a balloon with notes to him or her on the balloon or perhaps insert a note inside a bottle or balloon and let it drift out to sea or float high into the sky.

Lastly, if you anticipate Mother’s Day to be difficult because you desire to become one or have suffered losses, plan to honor and safe guard your memories or dreams;  Remember your own self-care by having a massage, enjoying solitude, journaling, have a spa day, walk in nature or climb a big hill, reach the top and scream out loud into the vast space.

Happy Mother’s Day to those so fortunate to have been and to those that are-

365 Days in a Year

January 15, 2018 at 5:22 pm · · Comments Off on 365 Days in a Year

365 Days in a Year

Dr. K. P. Lanthier, C.Psych.

What will 2018 have in store for us?  We are generally in anticipation of what the new year will bring.  It seems to be starting out with a ‘strong,’ ‘social, ‘justice’ focus, such as “The Times Up!” Movement.  This is a great cause highlighting the endemic and systematic mistreatment of women in the workplace.  More broadly, it focuses on the mistreatment and harassment of women, men, people of color and the LGBT community.  During the 2018 Golden Globe Awards, the “stars” all dressed in black to show support for the cause.  This was an empowering moment.  By contrast and disheartening, news quickly filled the airways about the horrific mudslides in California that triggered the destruction of homes and multiple deaths.  On the heels of that disaster, within this second week of the New Year was a threat warning that a missile was headed toward Hawaii. This caused pandemonium for the residents of Hawaii. They thought their lives were in peril.  I can’t imagine what their outlook for the rest of 2018 will be?  Will they perceive this year as a second chance?  Will they view it as the day they escaped imagined death?  Will that experience alter the way they live and perceive each new day? Is this the sign of the times?  Is this the new normal?

I wonder if I should simply retreat to my cozy, comfortable, welcoming bed during this unstable 2018? Perhaps, if I’d stayed in bed on the second Saturday afternoon, of the 2nd week of the New Year, just might have served me well.  I say this, because it is only the second week of the New Year;  a Saturday afternoon as I am coasting along in my car, only to hear the raging sirens and flashing blue lights of a police officer on his motorcycle gesturing me to pull over to the side. Yep, it’s the beginning of the New Year and no sympathy here…as I was written up and ticketed for speeding!  I offer no explanation as I seethe under my cool demeanor. This is what my New Year will look like?!  What a real bang it is living up to be! Is it too late for a New Year Resolution?  “Obey all traffic laws.”  It begs the question what will the rest of my 350 days of 2018 look like?

In any given year we have 365 days to do something new, eat something new, learn something new, feel something new, see something new, achieve something new.  There will be many things that occur that will be out of our control.  This may trigger feelings of doubt, fear, sadness, bewilderment or perhaps a sense of futility.  Remember there are ways to take back a bit of that control.  We must find a way to feel a sense of accomplishment, delight, happiness and pride each day of the year.  Typically, with good intentions we set goals to exercise regularly, eat better, smile more, work more, work less.  Unfortunately, daily routines and obligations thwart our best efforts at developing more Zen in our lives.

Despite the unpredictability of life, the current tensions of todays civilisation….; There is still something to say about “taking one day at a time”.  I could let the speeding ticket I received yesterday really pull me down.  Or I can say “lesson learned and there’s always tomorrow.”

Most of us falter on our New Year Resolutions that result in feelings of failure, shame and despair.  However, here is a simple task that if followed daily will result in you being rewarded by the end of the year.  That is, select bits of change (i.e. nickels, dimes, cents, quarters) you come by daily, set aside $1.00 in a jar each day for 365 days of the year.  At the end of the year, those coins will total $365.00.  Take those coins to the bank in exchange for bills.  Then rejoice for your small bounty that you can treat yourself with or donate the funds to a charity.  Either way, you can smile and feel good inside for this one accomplishment if all else fails throughout the rest of the 365 days of the year.

Happy New Year!

Bah Hum Bug!

December 19, 2017 at 2:19 am · · Comments Off on Bah Hum Bug!

Bah Hum Bug!

Dr. K. P. Lanthier, C.Psych.

So tis the season of joy, laughter and be merry! Just walking through the malls, you can get drawn into the festive season. But that’s the point isn’t it. There’s the pretty Christmas lights a twinkling, the joyful Christmas carols streaming through the air, the smell of fur tree pine, a whiff of marshmallows, hot chocolate and peppermint candy scent in the air. I’m feeling excited, energetic, with my Christmas list in hand. I’m almost in a trance as I prance into the store to purchase my first gift. I take one look at the price, my long list of names and in an instant my cheerful disposition is replaced with anguish. Bah Hum Bug its Christmas!

The reality begins to seep in. The bells that sounded so jingly now sound like a loud metronome, reminding me that time is not on my side. I begin to feel the dread, the stress, the burden and intense pressure. I must get the right gift, I can’t forget anybody, what about the dinner menu. I begin to ruminate, my mind in a swirl, my empathy grows for Ebenezer Scrooge and Mr. Grinch at this moment.

The holiday season is portrayed as a joyful occasion filled with sugar plum fairies, pleasant memories, stress free and pure relaxation. Conversely, for many it is one of the most stressful holidays of the year. There are the get-togethers, social engagements, concerts, plays, what -to -wear? How about my hair? This is the time for many, when the level of stress increases rather than decreases during the holiday season. With good intentions, there is the goal to create the best holiday ever for the family.  Albeit, the commercialism of the holidays puts added pressure on individuals to shop, shop, shop. This emphasis on expensive gift giving may lead to credit card debt by the new year.

Additionally, people feel stressed about meeting family obligations that involve spending lots of time together, not letting work obligations interfere with time spent with family. Then there is the worry of falling behind at work.

During the holidays, people are more likely to suspend their healthy habits of taking care of themselves. They are more likely to sit, watch television, eat, drink, smoke, and sleep to cope with the overwhelming stress of the holidays. Alternatively, this is a time that some folks renew their faith, attend church and feel blessed.

The holidays can be hectic with shopping, cooking, and celebrations. The added responsibilities…the increase in stress detracts from the celebrations and downtime. We must remember to take care of our own wellbeing. Get enough rest, sleep, and exercise. The added responsibilities can have a long-lasting impact on our body and mind. It all begins with the nagging question did I choose the right tree?

In the 1965 animated television special A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie is displaying depressed symptoms, despite it’s the start of the festive season. He attempts to direct a neighborhood Christmas play, but does not get the support of his friends. Charlie Brown cannot understand why he is so depressed given it’s the season for Christmas presents, Christmas cards and decorations. His depression deepens with the show of commercialism, as he takes note of Lucy’s ecstatic demeanor at the psychiatric booth. She is full of glee by the sound of jingling money, rather than jingling bells. Charlie Brown’s disillusionment deepens when he notices his own dog entered the ‘dog house’ into a light decoration competition with the hopes of winning money. Moreover, he seems to become mortified by his sisters’ letter to Santa Claus that outlines a list of particular gifts or a willingness to accept large sums of money as a substitute. Then there is the suggestion to purchase an aluminum, big, shiny pink tree for the play. Charlie Brown goes against the mainstream and chooses a tiny sapling for the Christmas tree. He is determined to remain faithful to the true meaning of Christmas. Unfortunately, he begins to feel hopeless when the tree ornament is too weighty for the tree. He believes Christmas is ruined. To his surprise, his friends had come together and resurrected the tree that twinkled in the night sky. His grief turned to disbelief, joy and peace.  His sapling was magnificent. It seemed to represent a symbol of hope.

I’m reminded of a recent past, when I purchased my own “Charlie Brown” cedar sapling for $5.00 at a school fair. I recall the lady saying I don’t think its going to make it. There were other naysayers, but I was determined to have it planted. It now is quite wide and stands about 20 something feet tall. It is my beacon of hope whenever I feel discouraged. Perhaps next holiday season I will don the tree with a bright star ornament!

The festive season ought not bring about undue physical and emotional stress. It is a time to cherish family, remember goodness, and sing together in harmony. Bah Hum Bug, tis the time to reflect, relax and destress. Rather, lets rejoice!

Happy Holidays!

What to Expect in Psychotherapy

November 9, 2017 at 2:29 am · · Comments Off on What to Expect in Psychotherapy

What to Expect in Psychotherapy

Dr. K. P. Lanthier, C.Psych.

People attend psychotherapy to learn how to understand the thoughts, feelings and behaviors that repeatedly cause them problems. Psychotherapy is about learning to cope rather than an emphasis on a cure. Understanding your own feelings, conflicts and the way you react will increase self-esteem, self-confidence and control. How well you achieve these goals will be one measure of satisfaction with your psychotherapy.

There can be a degree of trial and error in psychotherapy when choosing the best clinical modality relevant to your psychological distress. Certain models of therapy are designed for certain problems. There is no guarantee that treatment will work. Psychotherapy can be discussed in terms of short-term (12-20 sessions), crisis management (2-3 sessions) or long-term (12-24) months or open-ended. If you are considering ending therapy, it is important to discuss this with your therapist. It is common courtesy, and a predetermined last session can be arranged, to facilitate a proper closure.

Sometimes, after attending three or four sessions, individuals question whether they should continue receiving help. You may consider dropping out during this period. It is imperative to discuss these concerns with your therapist.

Psychotherapy is designed to have you look at things you tend to avoid on a day to day basis. You may see yourself in many uncomfortable or surprising ways. Treatment can evoke anxiety, sadness and depression at times. This is not a sign that treatment is not working.   Therapy can be hard. Typically, you will set the theme for the session. However, in the initial couple of visits, your therapist will be more active in the treatment gathering historical data about your life and presenting issues. This is termed the assessment phase. Then there will be more listening than talking. You may interpret this as a lack of interest or understanding. To the contrary, your therapist will be with you the whole way. To some degree, the usual ‘give and take’ format of conversation is dispensed with in therapy sessions. It is more one sided than your other relationships. This is an important strategy that facilitates the therapeutic process. The relationship is protected by important modes of conduct and boundaries. This can stir up positive and negative feelings within an individual. Often the feelings are linked to past life experiences.

Typically, advice giving and personal opinions are not shared with the patient/client to promote understanding and self-determination of one’s own actions. Attention is drawn to possible patterns of behavior that contribute to one’s difficulty. Openness and honesty about one’s thoughts, feelings and beliefs are essential to assist your therapist in understanding possible recurring themes. Homework assignments might be apart of the treatment plan or processing session material is expected to continue beyond the therapy hour.

Expect to have a variety of reactions toward your therapist. You may have doubt, distrust, anger or even feel attracted to your therapist. These emotions are common, yet can be difficult and embarrassing. It is important to have an open discussion that will likely lead to greater self-understanding. Professional practitioners are trained to tolerate envy, dissatisfaction, aggression or admiration from their clients. It is usually viewed in the context of the past influencing the present dynamics of the current situation. Physical violence and property destruction are not tolerated during the therapy hour.

Sometimes people drop out of treatment for fear of dependency upon the therapist. It is natural to miss your therapist when they are not available. Therapy is a great opportunity to learn how to depend on someone while maintaining one’s own autonomy and independence. As treatment draws to a closure, discuss any underlying fears about ending the therapeutic relationship. You and your therapist can work out a plan to minimize the impact of the loss.

What to expect in psychotherapy? Time is required to build trust with your therapist. Time is needed to share one’s deepest thoughts and emotions. Time is needed to learn any new skill. Time is needed to practice that new skill in areas of sports, school, work, or interpersonal engagement. Psychotherapy can be time consuming, while emotional problems, mental illness or stress can be debilitating. Take that first step today. Get professional assistance for your emotional needs and wellness.  You may also find helpful reading


Traumatized by Media Exposure – Part II

October 18, 2017 at 4:32 pm · · Comments Off on Traumatized by Media Exposure – Part II

Traumatized by Media Exposure – Part II

Dr. K. P. Lanthier, C. Psych.

As we go about our daily routines we are reminded that life can be fleeting and changing in the blink of an eye.  We hear of terror attacks that reach us on the streets, malls and concert halls.  In December 2016, A truck crashed into a crowd at a Christmas market in Berlin killing at least 12 and wounding 48+ individuals.  Then there was the knife attack at the Louvre in Paris early 2017.  In London, an attacker mowed down pedestrians on the Westminster Bridge.  The year before a similar carnage took place in Nice, France when a lorry deliberately drove into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day. There was the Manchester bombing that killed 22 people and 59 were injured after an explosion detonated among teenage fans leaving an Ariana Grande Concert.  There was a terror attack on the Champs Elysee that saw lost of life.  In Stockholm, four people were killed and 15 injured when a man drove a truck down a busy shopping street.  Couple of months later, terror struck the London Bridge when a van hit people while strolling on the sidewalk.  Similarly, a Barcelona attack occurred when a white van mounted the pavement and killed 13 pedestrians while injuring 100s.

We get news coverage of lone attackers that terrorize children at Mattoon High School, Washington State High School and learn of the shooting of Christina Grimmie while she signed autographs for fans.  2017 began with a gunman opening fire at Fort Lauderdale’s International airport that killed 5 people while wounding 8.  The latest visceral exposure to terror is the mass shooting in Las Vegas that left 59 people dead and over 500 injured.  But its not just these internationally sensationalized assaults that cause us distress.  There is the local news of bike accidents and fatalities on our roads that seep into our conscious minds.  Being a member of a small community makes us less immune to second-hand trauma.  There is a great probability of knowing directly or indirectly someone that has been harmed.

The minute by minute, second by second coverage of natural and manmade disasters can challenge our sense of safety.  We are bombarded by attacks on human life and liberty.  Possessions, life and limbs have been lost.  We see the effects of stress when we witness airline travellers being ejected off planes due to heightened emotional turmoil.  At the dinner table, we witness numerous stories of anguish, despair, fear and survival from our TV and electronic devices.  I, myself struggled to hold back tears while listening to the latest attack at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas.  Perhaps it was because I had travelled to Las Vegas last October 2016.  Thinking “that could have been me, my family…”.  The constant exposure to traumatic events can trigger an acute stress reaction in anyone.

If after witnessing a catastrophe and you experience distressing memories, negative mood, avoidance, numbing, disorientation, sleep disturbance and irritability for three days to a month duration, you may be experiencing an Acute Stress Disorder.  Sometimes a guilt reaction may accompany these symptoms.  An individual may feel responsible for not preventing the harm.  Panic attacks can follow during this time. You may feel more on edge as you perceive constant threats in the environment due to intrusive memories or bad dreams and media exposure.  Therapeutic interventions can combat symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder.  Psychotropic medications can be added to reduce unmanageable anxiety symptoms.  Additionally, strategies such as mindfulness and relaxation can help reduce symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder.  Some people use alcohol to cope with the aftermath of a stressful event.  Although alcohol can give short-term relief of ‘calming nerves,’ it can also be problematic.  As a result, it can increase low mood, worsen anxiety and lead to chronic drinking.  For this reason, drinking alcohol to cope is not recommended.

If you notice any of the symptoms above impacting on your sense of safety, ability to trust, overall wellbeing, relationships and work, seek professional assistance.  An Acute Stress Disorder can occur after an unexpected life crisis.  If your symptoms last for longer than one month, an assessment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may be warranted.  If you feel you need help coping with second hand trauma, call 296-7288 or email to make an appointment.


Traumatized by Media Exposure – Part I

October 18, 2017 at 4:25 pm · · Comments Off on Traumatized by Media Exposure – Part I

Traumatized by Media Exposure – Part I

Dr. K. P. Lanthier, C.Psych.

Recently the world has been inundated with tragedy, after tragedy, after tragedy.  Climate and weather disasters have hit nearly every part of the world.  For instance, there have been monsoons and flooding in South Asia, landslides in Africa, with 117 deaths in Zimbawee, severe floods have taken the lives of 144 deaths in China and millions displaced, 150 deaths in Peru from flooding, 156 deaths in Afghanistan from avalanches, in the Congo 174 deaths due to landslides and 213 deaths in Sri Lanka from excessive rainfall.  In Mexico there was a 7.1 magnitude earthquake causing 225+ deaths in its wake. A total of 300+ dead in Columbia due to heavy rainfall and massive landslides.  600+ human loss in Sierra Leone from flooding and mudslides.  The death toll in South Asia (Bangladesh, India, Nepal) experienced 1,200 perished due to flooding and landslides.  We’ve witnessed how hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, Jose, and Katia have left its citizens without water, food, and shelter.  The tragedy in a Rehabilitation Center in Florida after hurricane Irma made breaking news. Most recently, there have been daily coverage of the California Wildfires.  It’s difficult to remain untouched by these natural disasters that have plummeted our planet. We witness the devastations in real time on our television sets.  We get to know the people who are suffering as if they were our neighbor.  How do we recover from hearing about the 12 elderly victims that died due to failed electricity after Hurricane Irma?

We have witnessed in the media the outpouring of help and aid to those that have lost everything.  These kinds of tragedies tend to bring out the best in humankind.  Strangers lend a hand without thinking of the cost or risk.  Daily news coverage of natural disasters can begin to drain our physical well-being.  We may begin to experience compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma or an acute stress reaction.

An acute stress reaction is a condition that can develop after exposure to a stressful event.  The symptoms usually subside within hours or days after the event.  Along with natural disasters, serious accidents, violent assaults, rape, childhood sexualized assault and terrorist incidents can all trigger an acute stress reaction. The immediate and enduring impacts of natural disasters such as Hurricane Harvey, Irma and Maria have taken over media channels over the past months.  Most recently, we learn the death toll rises to 40 as the California Wildfires rage on.

As we face the devastation left by natural disasters we can begin to feel grief stricken, numb and disconnected.  We may feel we have little control over our lives.  We may begin to have poor sleep, experience nightmares, difficulty concentrating, altered eating habits or even engage in risky behavior.  If you notice experiencing these symptoms it’s time to make a change.  Perhaps, reduce your amount of exposure to the media.  Take a “stay-cation” by visiting friends, do something fun, read a good book, watch comedy, get physically active.  Sometimes it will take more to get you back on track.  Do not hesitate, to seek professional help that can offer a safe space to share your doubts, fears and worries.  You will be able to express your thoughts freely without judgement.  If you need help processing your thoughts and resolving vicarious trauma, call today at 296-7288.  Click here to read Part II, that covers the media coverage of terrorist attacks in 2016/2017 and Acute Stress Disorder.