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Healthy Processing of Injustice in the News

The recent violence in Charlottesville has many in our community deeply concerned. News that throws our community into the spotlight suddenly can have a significant impact on all of us whether or not a particular event has affected us directly. While it’s natural to worry about events that call into question our physical and emotional safety or that of friends, family, neighbors and colleagues, everyone reacts differently to social injustice. Understanding a bit about how we, as humans, process extremely troubling information can be helpful.

At the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center, we provide counseling services for the University community, and the Charlottesville community. We offer one time consultation services for anyone who feels the need to discuss concerns or reactions to events in our community. If you feel a consultation or counseling might be helpful, please call our counseling line at (434) 982-2252, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and we will be glad to respond. If you feel you are in crisis, however, please do not leave a message as it is important to seek immediate help. Instead please call 911, walk in to the UVA Emergency Room, or call Region Ten Crisis at (434) 972-1800. UVA students can also walk in to CAPS, or call (434) 243-5150 (after hours, (434) 972-7004).

Even when shaken by terrible news, not everyone needs counseling services. That said, information about how you might be processing can be helpful, as can some reminders about self-care.

News of violence or other disturbing events challenges our fundamental expectations of the world in which we carry out our day-to-day routines. Many people are sometimes surprised by the degree to which such news can affect them, even when the news is about people elsewhere that they do not know. To help, the Women’s Center’s counseling staff have created a short fact sheet about trauma to help you understand how your brain is struggling with what you are seeing and hearing.

You should also be aware that ongoing news coverage and discussions with friends and family can exacerbate our internal reactions to news of a violent event. Consider taking breaks from social media and the news if you are feeling overwhelmed. Taking a break does not mean that you do not care. It means that you recognize your limits and that viewing more than what feels right will not help.

While processing information about violent events, continue to ensure that the full range of your physical, mental and emotional needs are met, including especially adequate sleep, exercise, healthy eating, and relaxation. As on an airplane, where you are told to place your own air mask before helping others, it is important to remember that by taking care of yourself, you will be better able to effectively engage to address social injustice, however you choose, going forward.

Some specific tips include:

  • Set limits for how long at a time you will talk or think about subjects that you know will increase your stress.
  • Be compassionate with yourself and others. Everyone responds differently at stressful times.
  • Be as open and honest as possible with family and friends about what you need from them. It’s okay to ask for what you need. It is ok to ask them to let you take the lead on both bringing things up and on changing the subject when it feels like it is enough or too much.
  • If you do want to talk to family and friends in depth, do so -–it is important to seek support and to feel heard. Ask them to listen rather than respond, unless you are seeking advice, as otherwise you may wind up managing others’ reactions rather than your own.

Please share this information with colleagues, friends and family.

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