On October 7th, life drastically changed as Hamas attacked Israel. With the ongoing war, there have been many news reports, videos, images, and information released to the public. There have been numerous studies and research conducted about the effects war has on individuals and groups of people. Those affected directly by the war are being exposed to insurmountable amounts of traumatic events. “The direct correlation between the degree of trauma and the amount of the psychological problems is consistent across a number of studies. The greater the exposure to trauma - both physical and psychological - the more pronounced are the symptoms (Murthy, R.S. & Lakshminarayana, R., 2006).” Research and human experience tell us that humanitarian aid is needed in this region, including psychological services to address traumatic stress.
Even though Americans are far from the war currently taking place, it can still affect mental health and wellbeing. The American Psychological Association recently released a statement that sheds light onto the psychological affects across the globe. “Psychological science tells us that fear, anxiety and traumatic stress have long-term effects on health and well-being. These impacts are also being felt by people around the world who have families and friends in the region, as well as those concerned about the effects of war everywhere (American Psychological Association, 2023).” War affects the well-being of everyone. It may affect people differently and at different levels, but nonetheless, it is still present.
If you have experienced a trauma in your life, it is not uncommon for current traumatic events to bring up triggers or memories. Our brains are designed to identify a threat; it does not matter if it is a real threat or a perceived threat. When we have prior traumatic experiences, it increases our brain and body’s response to a new threat.
What can you do to care for and protect yourself during this time?
It is good to stay up to date on the news and current events but consider limiting exposure. Be mindful that videos and images released can impact your brain differently than news articles and verbal information. Check in with your family and friends and allow space to talk openly and honestly about any impacts this may have. Spend time doing things that are enjoyable and stress-relieving. Consider taking a walk, enjoying nature, painting, fishing, reading, praying, meditating, working out, or anything else that helps you reduce stress in your daily life. Reach out to a therapist if you need some additional support.
Trying to process and cope with a war is no small task. It can be overwhelming. It’s okay to ask for help.
1: Murthy, R. S., & Lakshminarayana, R. (2006). Mental health consequences of war: a brief review of research findings. World psychiatry : official journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), 5(1), 25–30.
2: American Psychological Association. (2023, October 11). APA warns of psychological impacts of violence in Middle East [Press release]. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2023/10/middle-east-violence-statement