Coping with tragedies: BCM expert offers advice

Laurel Williams, D.O.
Laurel Williams, D.O.

Watching tragedies such as those at the Boston Marathon and at the plant explosion in West, Texas, can leave many people feeling overwhelmed, helpless and upset. Experts at Baylor College of Medicine offer a few tips and resources to cope with these difficult times.

“Those who have already endured a painful event may be re-traumatized. Additionally, parents may be wondering what to say and how to talk to their children, especially as many elements are still unknown,” said Dr. Laurel L. Williams, assistant professor in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at BCM and director of the Baylor Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Clinic.

Advice for parents

  • Limit television: With 24-hour news cycles, the networks attempt to create a sense of urgency so that people will stay tuned. Resist the urge to watch continuously. If you have children and they watch the news, be sure to watch with them and ask them what they understand about what they are seeing.
  • Before giving information to your children, ask first what they know about the event.
  • Be honest but limit the details.
  • Allow for the child to express their feelings, whatever they may be.
  • Keep to the normal schedule – your own and your children’s.

Older children and adolescents may have more complex reactions to these events. Give them the opportunity to talk and don’t forget to express your thoughts and feelings as well.

“If you are searching for something to do to help or settle your feelings, reach out to your close friends and family, make plans to help others in need, write a card, make a picture,” said Williams, who is also director of residency training for child and adolescent psychiatry.

If you or someone you know seems to be suffering, it is a good idea to give them support as well as information on mental health services.


The American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the American Psychological Association will have helpful information for both medical professionals and the general public:

To support Red Cross disaster response, people can donate to Red Cross Disaster Relief or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

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