Supporting each other after the Christchurch terrorist attack

18 Mar, 2019

On Friday 15 March, two mosques in Christchurch were subject to a terrorist attack by a white supremacist.

As the Muslim community, Cantabrians and all New Zealanders come together to support each other, the Mental Health Foundation has put together some resources to help guide your conversations and look after your mental health and the mental health of the people around you.

To our Muslim friends: we are sending you all our love. You are our whānau, you belong here, this is your home and you deserve to be safe here.

Normal and understandable to feel range of emotions

It’s normal and understandable to feel a range of emotions about the attacks. It’s all right to feel numb, it’s all right to feel angry, sad, guilty, relieved, lucky, hurt or scared.

It’s also normal to be physically affected, to startle easily, have a racing heartbeat, to feel aches and pains, to have difficulty concentrating, to feel very tired, to feel agitated and tense.

If you were close to the attack or directly impacted by it, nightmares, flashbacks and heightened reactions to stress and triggers are common and understandable.

If these feelings persist, make an appointment with your GP or Iwi health provider.

It’s all right to feel however you’re feeling, and it’s all right to ask for support to get through. You can free call or text 1737 at any time to talk with a trained counsellor. It’s confidential and available 24/7.

Some ways to get through and support your mental health:

  • Stick to your routines if you can. This helps you to feel a bit more in control and stay connected with your family, whanau, friends, neighbours and colleagues. It’s tempting to stay home but keeping connected and resuming your usual activities will make a big difference to your mental health.

  • Offer support to others if you can and ask for help if you need it. Being there for others is important for your own mental health, but you deserve support and compassion too. Check in with how you’re feeling and support the people in your life to talk about how they’re doing.

  • Rest. Many of us, especially those who work for the Police, emergency services, the media, health services or mental health services will be busier than ever. This is part of the job, but it’s very important to take breaks and rest when you can and to support your colleagues to do the same. Five minutes of sunshine, a power nap, sitting down to eat your lunch – these small things make a difference and will support you to get through the day.

  • Do things that feel good. During stressful and traumatic times, it’s more important than ever to make sure you spend at least some time every day doing things that make you feel happy, comforted or connected, things that give you a break from the world. Go to your maunga, awa, moana or whenua that you feel connected to and just be, or share meals with loved ones, go for a run, pray, dance or read. Giving your brain and your body some time to switch off helps to fuel you to get through the difficult times.

  • Turn the news off. While it’s tempting to keep the news on all the time to try to better understand what’s happened, it can be overwhelming to have floods of scary and bad news coming at you all the time. Turn it off when you can and make an effort to only check websites and social media once or twice a day. This is especially important if you have children or vulnerable people around who may be distressed by images and descriptions of the attack. 

  • Move your body. Do what you can to keep moving throughout the day. Exercise can feel trivial but it plays a big role in your mood and mental health.

  • Don’t make big decisions. Now is not the time to make big changes in your life. Delay what you can until you’re feeling better.

  • Simplify your life. While routine is important, having space and time to rest is, too. Make a list of everything you have to do today or this week and then cross out the things that aren’t absolutely essential. You can get to those things later.

  • Make a list of the people you can talk to if you need to. This might include an imam, priest or pastor, a kaumatua or kuia, a friend, relative, coach, counsellor or helpline. Include their contact information and keep the list handy so you can reach out whenever you need to.

  • Look for the helpers. It’s easy to get caught up in the bad news, especially when such an awful thing has happened. Make an effort to look out for stories about people being kind, compassionate and caring to each other.

Get mental health support:

  • The Canterbury Charity Hospital, on Harewood Rd, Bishopdale, will offer free counselling from this week. Cantabrians seeking free counselling from the Canterbury Charity Hospital can request an appointment by either phone, text or email. 03 360 2266 (week-days) 020 4098 0750 (after hours) or email reception@charityhospital.org.nz
  • Need to talk? You can free call or text 1737 to talk with a trained counsellor, any time. It’s free and confidential.

  • Other helplines, including Lifeline, the Suicide Crisis Helpline.

Useful links and resources

How to talk to young people

We know it can be hard to know what to say to rangatahi about the terrorist attack in Christchurch. But most children will know what has happened and will need your help to talk about it. It can feel impossible to kōrero/talk about terrorism with young people, but it’s important that we can all have safe, open, honest and compassionate kōrero about what’s happened so our young people feel heard, supported and understood.

Let them know you are there to kōrero whenever they are ready. They might not be ready right now – that’s OK. Keep checking in, and make sure they know of a number of different people and places they can turn to.

The Children’s Commissioner has put together some great resources to guide your conversations:

Young people and their caregivers can also contact any of the below helplines for support and advice:

Youthline – 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email talk@youthline.co.nz

thelowdown.co.nz – or email team@thelowdown.co.nz or free text 5626

Kidsline – 0800 54 37 54 (0800 kidsline) for young people up to 18 years of age.