Advice in coping with the anniversary
Each year as the anniversary of the Manchester Arena attack approaches (22 May), the following advice from the NHS Manchester Resilience Hub can help you deal with any emotional issues that may arise.
In the days, weeks, months and years after the Arena Attack many people will have experienced one or more of the following common reactions to having been involved in the attack:
- Troubling thoughts, memories and mental imagery
- Disturbed sleep and/or nightmares
- Disturbed appetite, with either a marked increase or decrease in feeling hungry
- Sadness, despondency and apathy
- Irritability and anger
- Guilt and shame
- Emotional numbness
- Increased watchfulness or “jumpiness”
- Increased anxiety
- Poor concentration
Sometimes people who were initially unaffected may experience difficulties long after an event. These reactions may become apparent for the first time around an anniversary. It is important to remember that this is a normal response and not something which should be responded to with undue concern or worry as they may well pass.
For those still experiencing difficulties many people also question their ability to cope. Providing clear, age-appropriate information will be helpful. Talking and marking the anniversary is also important, particularly if it holds significance for your family.
This advice may help all those affected:
- It is okay to feel upset, guilty, angry or worried around the time of the anniversary and it is normal to have an increase in trauma responses.
- Neither ignore nor dwell on intrusive thoughts, images or memories, but rather just notice that they are there. Remember that they are just thoughts and allow them to pass of their own accord.
- Spend time with loved ones and close friends, resisting any temptation to isolate yourself from others.
- Ask friends how they are feeling, and where appropriate talk about how you are feeling.
- Keep active, by going for a run or taking regular walks, ideally in the company of friends or family.
- Plan relaxing and comforting things to do and think about how you might manage if you are upset.
- Keep to your usual routine.
- Try a “digital detox” by switching off social media alerts on laptops, smartphones and tablets for at least some of the time around the anniversary.
If age-appropriate, do not use non-prescription drugs or increase your alcohol intake to help in managing any difficult feelings, as this is likely to increase the risk of further difficulties in the future.
Everyone will have their own view on how they want to mark the anniversary and there is no right or wrong way to do this. For some people it will be quiet time to reflect with their family, for some it will be attendance at planned events whereas others may wish to carry on with their normal routine.
Do talk to your loved ones about the anniversary and how they wish to mark it, but also pay attention to your own wishes and needs.
For most people any reactions around the anniversary will soon pass. However, for some people feelings which emerge at the anniversary may persist, or be so intense that it will be worth discussing them with your GP, school, or contacting the Resilience Hub for advice.