Coping with Trauma

Traumatic Events

At some point in your working life it’s possible you may witness or be involved in a traumatic event. Accidents and illnesses can happen out of the blue, at work and in our personal lives too, so it helps to know how you might react and the best way to handle these situations.

Traumatic events can cover a variety of events – these include witnessing or being involved in an accident, the serious illness or death of someone close to you, a violent assault, and natural disasters.

Dealing with an event

Immediately after a traumatic event such as an accident, you’re likely to feel numb, dazed and in shock. You may feel cut off from the world around you, and unable to believe what has happened. In the weeks after the incident you’ll probably experience very strong feelings. These can include:

  • Feeling frightened and sad, especially if you’ve lost someone close
  • Feeling guilty that you survived
  • Having headaches and memory problems

These feelings are completely normal and 90% of men and 25% of women will recover normally following a potentially traumatic incident.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a form of anxiety that can follow being involved in or witnessing traumatic events. PTSD can develop soon after the trauma, or months, even years later. Up to 3 out of 100 people may develop PTSD in their lifetimes.

Remember it is completely normal to experience some symptoms following a traumatic incident and you should not be concerned unless symptoms last longer than four weeks.

Potential symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Feeling numb and apart from other people
  • Having flashbacks, dreams or vivid memories of the event
  • Being more irritable than before the incident
  • Having pessimistic thoughts
  • Finding it difficult to sleep


Most people start improving over the weeks following a traumatic event. If, after four to six weeks, you feel you aren’t improving, see your GP. If they are concerned about you or if your symptoms are severe, and aren’t getting better there are treatments available they may suggest. This could involve talking therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which can help you to manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. If your doctor feels you need them they may prescribe antidepressants. Talk to your line manager too, and ask them about Network Rail’s employee assistance programme.

Although you can’t prevent developing PTSD statistics show that two-thirds of people with PTSD do recover within a few months without any treatment. Symptoms can be more serious and long lasting in some people, and can last a year or more, however there are treatment options available. Asking for help if you feel things aren’t improving in a few weeks is the best thing to prevent long term symptoms.

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