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Zone Tools: How to cope after witnessing trauma

By now everyone has seen the collision. The collapse. The CPR and ambulance. The distraught and concerned look on the player and staff faces. The shock and emotion from the thousands in the stands. The outpouring of love from fans around the globe.

Buffalo Bills young safety Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest Monday night and received CPR on the field for at least 10-minutes before being transported to a local hospital where he remains in critical condition fighting for his life.

The world was watching and now potentially navigating anxiety, nervousness and even angst about certain aspects, along with confusion and shock.

Here are some steps to take for anyone who was impacted by what they saw happen to Hamlin - or may go through a similar experience with a teammate or friend.

  1. Acknowledge and accept your feelings/emotions as being valid. It’s okay to feel scared and upset when witnessing trauma. Be gentle and compassionate with yourself. For many, witnessing a traumatic event brings up trauma from the past, even if it was a different type of event.

  2. It's okay to want to talk about it and process it with your friends or team members. It’s equally okay to want to process it on your own. There's no wrong or right way. Do what works best for you.

  3. Avoid social media where the event may play out over and over again if you feel it would be re-triggering. You are your own best judge of whether or not it would be helpful to re-watch the event.

  4. Take some small action to help if you can, such as sending a supportive message, offering to help with practical needs if it’s a team member, etc.. This takes away some of that feeling of helplessness, like things are out of control.

  5. Seek help from a mental health care professional if you have recurring thoughts, nightmares, anxiety, etc., and find it tough to cope. Taking care of your mental health helps you build resilience and ensures you will be better able to cope if something similar happens again.


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