Nov 15: Ask a counsellor column

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How did the recent tragic incident on campus impact the community, and how can we take care of ourselves in this challenging time?

Answer:

The loss of a life impacts us all in some way, and for many of us the impact is significant. What happened is a tragic loss and our hearts go out to all those affected.

A range of possible responses arises in the wake of a tragic event, as we have seen in our own community. We want to remind you that you are not alone and supports are available on and off campus.

After a stressful event we may experience various reactions in the short-term or later on, and having strong feelings is common. Some return to a regular routine fairly soon and others may be impacted for longer. Emotions can include shock, confusion, sadness, grief, fear, guilt, anger, and anxiety. We may have physical reactions such as tension and pain, nausea, changes in appetite, sleep, and energy levels. We can experience uncertainty, distressing thoughts, intrusive images, and have difficulty focusing and thinking clearly. We might struggle to make sense of what happened. Feelings can come and go and sometimes appear when we don’t expect them. Sometimes our attention turns to other losses we have experienced and to our own and others’ suffering.  

These are all natural and normal reactions as we process an unusual event and usually subside with time. We encourage people to express themselves in safe ways, whether it’s through talking, writing, physical activity, or creative pursuits. We all have wisdom about how to care for ourselves such as finding comfort at home, in nature, through spiritual practices, exercise, and/or rest. Talking about your thoughts, feelings, and reactions with friends, family, co-workers, and community members can be helpful and comforting. It can help you feel less alone. Getting back into your daily routine can help too.  

We encourage the whole VIU community to continue to reach out to loved ones and/or professionals, and to support each other. Reaching out is a sign of strength and courage. If you would like extra support now or in the future, or if you are concerned about others, VIU counsellors are available 8:30 am – 4:00 pm with extended hours until 7:00 pm on Tuesdays. The Vancouver Island Crisis Line is also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-888-494-3888. They have a text and chat line from 6–10 pm (text: 250-800-3806 ; chat: <www.vicrisis.ca>).  

Community Services include:

Island Health’s Crisis Counselling Services: 203-2000 Island Highway (behind Staples at Brooks Landing) Monday–Friday, 10 am–7 pm. They provide immediate, single session therapy with a focus on in-the-moment crisis.  

Island Health’s Substance Use Walk-In Services: 3151 Barons Road, Monday, 9:30 am–12 pm and Wednesday, 1 pm–3:30 pm. They provide immediate service for clients struggling with substances; in the aftermath of a traumatic incident people can sometime see an increase in substance use.

We are touched by the kindness, generosity, and compassion shown by so many people in our community. Support has been available in a comfort room for groups and individual students to drop in. Cedar brushing, prayers, and smudging have been offered by VIU Elders. Students and staff have shared free hot chocolate, pizza, hugs, and willingness to listen to each other. Therapy dogs brought smiles and warmth. Let us continue to respond with kindness toward ourselves and those around us as we all move through this together.