'Reach out to each other' - looking after your mental health after trauma

As the nation starts to process the Christchurch attacks, for some the grief may be overwhelming and for others it may be morphing into anger.

Mental Health Foundation CEO Shaun Robinson joined the AM show on Tuesday to say organisations around the country are "gearing up" to offer support.

"While this is something that's really touched the NZ psyche, most affected community is the Muslim community," he says.

"Racism towards migrants, intolerance and violence towards people of Islamic faith. If people are afraid of being discriminated against, of course that's going to have a huge impact on their mental health and wellbeing.

"Probably one of the key things that people can do, and are doing, is to show that compassion towards others, and to give nothing to racism," he says. 

"This is a turning point for our community in many respects. I think that it has woken us all up."

Robinson says the best thing we can do right now is care for each other.

"Reach out to each other, offer hugs and support," he said. "And do things for your own wellbeing; keep a certain amount of routine in your life. Do things that bring you joy during the day."

Over the weekend the Ministry of Health compiled documents in English and Arabic, which offer advice for looking after your mental health after traumatic event.

They recommend the below 'dos' and 'don'ts' over what helps recovery and what doesn't.


  • Spend time in places that feel safe and comfortable as much as possible.
  • Tell yourself that how you are feeling is a normal reaction and will pass, it is nothing to be afraid of.
  • Reach out to your usual supports family and whānau, friends, workmates - sharing how we feel, and offering support to others, is important for recovery.
  • Keep to usual routines  mealtimes, bedtime, exercise, and so on.
  • Keep active  going to work, doing usual leisure activities, seeing friends, and so on, can distract us from any distressing feelings, and is also helpful.
  • HOWEVER, if over the following days and weeks, distress or stress symptoms are escalating, or you feel you are not coping, early access to help and professional support is important.  Your GP is a good starting point, or for support with grief, anxiety, distress or mental wellbeing, you can call or text 1737  free, anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - to talk it through with a trained counsellor.


  • Talking about details of the traumatic event repeatedly has been shown to increase distress and delay recovery.  Talking about feelings is helpful, but avoid repeatedly talking about what happened, of the detail of the event, what you saw, and so on.
  • Being constantly reminded of the event is not helpful and can increase distress.  While the media, Facebook etc are full of the recent traumatic event, spending too much time reading and hearing about what happened is not helpful.  Turn off Facebook, and watch the news only to the degree you normally would.  If watching even normal news is distressing, turn the news off and do something relaxing or enjoyable instead!
  • Major life decisions are best not made at a time of distress  avoid making big decisions until you have recovered.

If over the following days and weeks, distress or stress symptoms are escalating, or you feel you are not coping, early access to help and professional support is important

Where to find help and support:

  • Need to Talk? - Call or text 1737
  • Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
  • Youthline - 0800 376 633, text 234, email talk@youthline.co.nz or online chat
  • Samaritans - 0800 726 666
  • Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)