‘Allow the feelings to be felt’: How to deal with the aftermath of a tragedy like the Bondi stabbing

Source: AAP

It is important to address your emotions and feelings following a horrific and senseless tragedy like the Bondi Junction Westfield stabbing, mental health experts say.

Dr Marny Lishman, a health and community psychologist, said it is normal for people to feel a range of emotions after a “senseless crime”.

“You’ve got people who are fired up and angry and also people who are feeling anxious right now and fearful,” she said.

“We’re supposed to feel every emotion and a lot of adults tend to just brush them aside and try to distract themselves to get rid of it.”

She said it is important to feel those emotions and not ignore them.

“Allow yourself to feel sad, cry and release them and talk to people about it,” Lishman said.

“Have some time to yourself, allow yourself to do things that make you feel better like going outside and exercising, but do make sure you allow the feelings to be felt.”

Seven people, including the perpetrator, have been confirmed dead after the attack by a man who was known to police, but had no criminal record.

Safe country

Dr Tanveer Ahmed, a psychiatrist and mental health author, said it is important to remember that Australia is one of the safest countries in the world.

“This is a very rare event, so just remind yourself of that if you do feel a bit shaky,” he said.

“It’s the time to connect with others and that will help ground you.”

He said there will be people who find being confronted with images and information of the event more troubling than others.

“It is important to limit what you can in regards to some of these images, and it is not appropriate for kids of a certain age,” Ahmed said.

“There are bound to be conspiracy theories here and there, so it’s a time for open communication between loved ones and people in your community.”

The Bondi Junction incident was the first murder of four or more people to occur in Australia since February 2020, the Australian Institute of Criminology said.

mental health day

It’s important to remember that Australia is a safe country, Dr Ahmed said. Photo: Getty

Societal response

Lishman said it is important to note there are gaps in the mental health system that need to be addressed.

“A lot of people are suffering, a lot of people can’t get help and that’s been going on for a very long time,’’ she said.

“Women are saying that we feel fearful. We already feel we can’t go for a run in the dark or dress in certain ways.”

Mental health problems for young Australians have increased by almost 50 per cent in the past 15 years, Australian Bureau of Statistics data has found.

Ahmed said society often doesn’t have the support systems required for people to address any emotional struggles they are feeling following a tragedy like the stabbing.

“To some extent, we lack the language for these sorts of events and mental health isn’t always enough,” he said.

“That doesn’t always help us grapple with the bigger sort of existential and spiritual questions this sort of event raises, so people do need to find their own versions of how to cope with that.”

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