Critical incidents and trauma

What are critical incidents?

Critical incidents are any extraordinary and unexpected circumstances that may cause a traumatic reaction. Examples of critical incidents include events such as:

  • disasters
  • wars
  • death (actual or threatened)
  • vehicle accidents
  • assaults – physical, sexual or psychological being threatened with harm
  • being witness to an event that caused someone harm.

Traumatic events

Traumatic events are likely to have an impact all of us at Deakin to some degree and it is not uncommon for people to react in many different ways, which may including experiencing some of the following:

  • more focused on your own safety
  • more concerned about the future
  • fear for the safety of loved ones or grief those you have lost
  • feeling sadness, teary, fearful
  • feeling helpless or powerless
  • fixated with learning more about the event/s
  • withdrawing from others
  • difficulty concentrating
  • trouble sleeping
  • for some, these incidents can also trigger previous trauma they have witnessed or experienced.

What to do

Below are some ideas as to how to support yourself and others in the Deakin community during this challenging time:

  • Check in with your friends, particularly if they seem distant or withdrawn.
  • Encourage them to talk about what’s bothering them without necessarily prying for details.  Don’t pressure them to talk.
  • Acknowledge and validate their feelings and responses.
  • Encourage connecting with existing supports, including friends and family.
  • Encourage keeping a balance between learning more about the situation and having a break from the updates.
  • Encourage maintaining and/or returning to usual routines.
  • Other activity such as exercise or relaxing activity can also help.

It is likely that these reactions will reduce naturally over the coming days.

If your reaction remains a concern to you or does not seem to be settling after a week or so, then consider obtaining some more formal support.  Deakin University Counselling Service is a free service for all currently enrolled students of Deakin and offers confidential support and the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available for staff wanting counselling.   Alternatively, you may consider visiting a GP or campus nurse for further support.    

When on campus we encourage you to take advantage of the following services available to all students and staff:

  • Security provide free escorts around the campus 24 hours a day
  • SafeZone app, which allows security to know where you are located on campus.

Please take care of yourself and look out for others.

General tips

Research indicates that 85% of people who experience a traumatic event will find their own means of recovering without the need of professional assistance. These people have identified the following strategies as useful in their recovery:

  • Talk to someone you trust. This may be a friend, family member but don't face things alone. Getting support early may avoid further distress later on.
  • Manage your sleep so that you have adequate rest.
  • Take time to do things you enjoy that relaxes you and allows your body to respond to its changing needs: i.e. cry when you need to, direct angry feelings by going to the gym for a workout or spending time with your friends.
  • Take some time and gradually begin to return to normal routines.
  • You need to manage your general stress levels during this time. Be aware that reactions may be more intense at pressure times during the year.
  • Avoid alcohol and other drug use
  • If your traumatic responses continue interfering with you everyday life for more than two weeks, it is recommended that you seek professional help.

Taking it further

Last updated:
Page custodian: Division of Student Life