Psychologists are concerned by the level of fear and anxiety generated by recent media coverage of potential terrorist attacks in Australia.
Amanda Gordon, President of The Australian Psychological Society, says people should look after themselves and find ways of managing their anxiety, but also ensure they keep the threat in perspective to guard against overreacting.
‘It is easy to become frightened by reports of an imminent terrorist attack,” says Ms Gordon.
“Some coping strategies that people can use include calming fears with relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, distraction or positive imaging.Spending time with people you love and care about is also an important support in distressing times,” she said.
“It is also important that people are realistic about the risk of being involved in a terrorist attack. It is still much more likely that a person will be injured in a car accident driving home from work,” she said.
“The consequences of fear can be very unhealthy for your wellbeing. Fear can create prolonged stress reactions, intense feelings of anger, trigger phobias, insecurity, intensified negative perceptions about public order (eg, the streets are not safe), prejudice against groups, the need to identify an ‘enemy’ and demonising of particular ethnic groups,” she said.
“While a threat posed by a very small group of people may be genuine, we need to be careful that we don’t generalise and stereotype particular ethnic groups. Greater security will come from an Australia that respects diversity and is inclusive and supportive of people from all cultures,” said Ms Gordon.
Tips to help you cope with your fear
Tips for parents
The APS provides a free referral service for the general public, GPs and other health professionals who are seeking the advice and assistance of a qualified psychologist, online at www.psychology.org.au or call 1800 333 497
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Amanda Gordon is available to comment on this topic, please call 0411 428 250.