Controlling Media Exposure During Crisis

Controlling Media Exposure During Crisis

On 7 Jan 2016, in stress, mental health, self-improvement

Many people are unable to resist news coverage of traumatic events, such as disasters and terrorist attacks. As horrific as they are to watch on video or even read about, many still find it nearly impossible to turn away. 

It is difficult to know why the information is so hard to resist for so many. Whatever the reason, it is important to understand the effects on the community that this type of exposure may have. Research generally finds an association between watching media coverage of traumatic events and stress symptoms. When these events take place we often feel fearful and unsafe, which is a normal response to these situations. Those who have already experienced or witnessed a traumatic event are at a high risk of developing depression and post-traumatic disorder (PTSD). According to the National Institute of Health, PTSD is when people begin to feel stressed or frightened even when they are no longer in danger. PTSD was brought to attention by war veterans, but also includes victims of muggings, car accidents, natural disasters, bombings and car or airplane accidents.

The odds of being involved in a mass shooting in the United States are extremely unlikely. But when these events occur, viewing media coverage can have a serious negative impact on many people. If you notice yourself becoming more anxious or depressed, having trouble eating or sleeping or having bad dreams, you may want to decrease your exposure to these upsetting events. It may be helpful to set a limit to the amount of time you watch news coverage, even only by five or ten minutes per day. For some, the coverage may be too much and they may need to completely avoid all exposure to television or online news. Social media is a great way to communicate quickly, but it can be another mechanism for information overload. So during times of crisis it may be helpful to avoid Facebook, Twitter etc. If you have children and the media is covering a traumatic event, it is important to reassure them that they are safe. And encourage your children to ask questions to monitor their reactions. Children are vulnerable to experiencing PTSD, especially those who have been abused or were exposed to prior trauma. If your child watches any media coverage of stressful events, be sure to sit with them so you can be available to answer questions.

Here are some tips to cope during these high-stress events:

  1. Do not watch or read about traumatic events before bedtime.
  2. Practice relaxation activities, ie. deep breathing, massage, meditation, yoga and progressive muscle relaxation.
  3. Exercise.
  4. Express concerns and feelings.
  5. Do not isolate yourself.

If you are having trouble coping, you may benefit from counseling. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been found to be useful to treat PTSD. Support from family and friends is important. BJC EAP is a great resource to help you or your family if help is needed during traumatic events. Call 314.747.7490 to make an appointment.

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