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Terror at Mosques: Now Is the Time to Take Action and Heal

The March 15 attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand has left at least 49 dead and 20 seriously injured. The short and long-term traumatic stress on the families and community may also be horrible and extensive. Everything should be done to support their physical and mental healing.

This is the time to do everything possible to reduce the anguish, traumatic stress and anxiety among survivors and their friends and families, both to reduce their suffering and to prevent many people from developing post-traumatic stress disorder from the horror of the event.

Screening for those at high risk for affliction should be carried out, with simple known tools. There are 5 minute PTSD tests available, such as the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) checklist, a test used around the world to determine risk of PTSD. Then, the most rapid, effective and cost-effective approaches should be used to help those at risk get relief from the massive stress of this tragedy.

Just as wounded are given first aid and then needed medical attention to help the body heal, the general public should be made aware of symptoms of traumatic stress and anxiety so that they may be able to take more complete scanning, like the PCL-5 checklist or see mental health professionals.

By applying prevention techniques to those at risk of developing traumatic stress, the number of people who succumb to post-traumatic stress can be minimized.

How to determine conditions that may lead to post-traumatic stress if left unattended

Many people who experience massive traumas or witness others experiencing such traumas have flashbacks of the horrible event, and even have dreams of this tragedy. They may also respond strongly to stimuli that remind them of the negative event. For example, a soldier who has been used to gun-fire in war may come home and throw him or herself to the ground upon hearing the backfire of a car.

In addition, victims may become hyper-vigilant, always hyper-alert. Others may engage in risky activities, start taking drugs or alcohol in an attempt to obliterate the painful memories. Some people experience a rise in anger and violent behavior; most have trouble sleeping.

Another common reaction to a traumatic event is to avoid situations that remind one of the event or even completely avoid people and large groups in general.

Some victims start having negative thoughts or feelings about themselves or others. These feelings may become overwhelming.

People troubled by such symptoms, those who have friends or family connected with the Christchurch attacks, or even sensitive people who have been watching the events frequently on the news, may be advised to see a mental health professional or to take the five minute PCL-5 test. Usually, these symptoms drop off over a few weeks. But if they continue for more than a month, one may be a victim of PTSD.

PTSD treatments

The standard treatments for traumatic stress and PTSD are psychotherapy and psycho-pharmacology. But there are many other additional approaches that are used as well. Some of them are highly effective to prevent temporary symptoms from becoming post-traumatic stress disorder.

The approaches that rapidly reduce PTSD are often the same strategies that best reduce growing symptoms and prevent PTSD.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, August 2015, only 33% of US Veterans with PTSD come out of PTSD using the top 2 most recommended psychotherapy techniques. Psychopharmacology is often used as well, although it is less effective than psychotherapy. The two of course may be used together.

In the light of the need for treatments to help the 66% of US Veterans not coming out of PTSD with psychotherapy, many groups are investigating into alternatives, including use of horses and dogs to provide companionship, diet and exercise routines, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and different types of meditation. The US Government has gone so far as to spend 25 million dollars to test implantation in the head of a chip that would desensitize an area of the brain that may be associated with PTSD.

Many people find unique comfort from one or another of these approaches.

In one government study comparing types of meditation, the technique that showed the greatest and fastest response was Transcendental Meditation (TM). There are 10 studies published in professional journals showing that TM is rapid and highly effective. Two studies on Congolese war refugees with high levels of PTSD symptoms showed that 90% of Congolese war refugees with PTSD became non-symptomatic within 30 days of learning and practicing TM (Journal of Traumatic Stress, April, 2013; February, 2014). One research paper on students showed that within 105 days of learning TM, 80% of students with PTSD became non-symptomatic (Psychological Reports, February, 2019). A November 2018 study in Lancet Psychiatry showed that TM was at least as effective as Prolonged Exposure, the gold standard for PTSD care.

If high levels of post-traumatic stress can be dissolved rapidly with people who already have PTSD, then how much easier would it be to prevent traumatized friends and family as well as well-wishers, from getting PTSD?

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Let’s work together to reduce the suffering of those affected by this tragedy.

If you or your friends are experiencing these symptoms, take a test (PCL-5) or see a professional to see if you are at risk. If you are, then take action to prevent the symptoms from manifesting as post-traumatic stress disorder.

About the authors:

Dr. Scott F. Terry, Ed.D., M.A., IL.-L.M.F.T., IL.-L.C.P.C., IA.-L.M.F.T., IA.-L.M.H.C., Ch.T., and AAMFT approved supervisor. With 25 years of practice as a doctoral level clinician, supervisor, professor, clinical and executive director of five large mental health organization practices, including the Ardent Counseling Center, and a radio show.

David Shapiro, B.A. cum laude chemistry, M.A., is an author of two articles published in Journal of Traumatic Stress (April, 2013; February, 2014) on Transcendental Meditation and PTSD; the founding President of PTSD Relief Now and its African PTSD Relief projects and Alliance for PTSD Recovery (both are 501C3 charities) ; author of a third article, published February 2019 in Psychological Reports, is on rapid reductions in PTSD in South African college students; and an author of numerous popular articles on PTSD published throughout the world. His previous articles in Elephant Journal include: Is Meditation the Answer to Trump’s Goal to Reduce Veteran Suicides? and The Simple Technique that dramatically Reduced PTSD Symptoms in Refugees. Thousands of African refugees, at-risk students, military, and abused women have been helped by support from the corporation PTSD Relief Now. To receive updates on research and projects, sign up here or email

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