Talking About Terror

By Danielle Pope

Talking About Terror
How can we talk about tragic world events with our loved ones while also looking after our own mental health?

As we commemorate 9/11, it’s hard not to think of the recent terror attacks shaking the world. ISIS have replaced al-Qaeda as the biggest threat to Western safety, committing attack after attack in the space of a few months.

The bombing of the Manchester Arena, which killed 22 people, brought Britain to a standstill, only to have to endure yet another terrorist attack on London Bridge where seven people – two of them Australian – were killed.

Outside the UK, ISIS claimed responsibility to an attack in front of an ice cream shop in Baghdad which killed 17 people, along with another attack in Iran where at least 12 were killed when six attackers mounted simultaneous gun and suicide bomb assaults on Iran’s Parliament building.

Closer to home, a man in Melbourne was engaged in a standoff with police after holding a woman hostage in June, a confrontation for which the Islamic State has also claimed responsibility.

Sadly, these sorts of stories are not new. War, famine, natural disasters are all leading stories when they occur, and often receive saturated news coverage. Still, in times where there is seemingly such an overwhelming amount of terror and violence, we can be left feeling helpless and anxious.

Trauma psychologist Olivia Djouadi says that we can still feel the trauma of these events, even if we were not directly affected. “Those who were present for the attack, if they were unharmed, can feel a trauma has happened to them as the potential for harm was there, “ she says. ‘Those watching events on the TV can feel anxious and for people who are sensitive or very young, as in children, may be affected emotionally every time they watch the news, even if it is the same story.”

With the 24 hour news cycle and the ability for anyone to access information from anywhere, means that we have come to expect constant news coverage. In times of crisis, this can also mean that we are saturated with these traumatic stories. “We are so use to constant information as a society that turn off notifications or the TV can be hard for some people,” says Djouadi. “However news times can be set up so there isn’t an endless supply of negative news.”

As well as taking breaks from the news, Djouadi also recommends taking time out and going for a walk outside can help an unsettled system.

While many of us will try and protect our children from exposure to these events, the reality of social media means that children are often already aware of them. Human behaviour expert and author Dr John Demartini says that talking through tragedy with children is extremely important as it can help to alleviate fears and anxieties.

Dr Demartini recommends five ways of explaining tragedy to children:

  1. Assure your child that they are safe in their local environment
  2. Help them realistically understand that the world is filled with people with different values and views. While some of these views will be supportive, others will be challenging and both are required for their maximum growth and development.
  3. Encourage your child to ask questions and grow a deeper understanding of what can lead to such events
  4. Explain to them that these events are usually isolated and rare
  5. Encourage your child to tell you what they may already know about the event and to express how they are feeling.


Olivia Djouadi – more information on her website here

Dr John Demartini – more information on his website here


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