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Act of terror

Regardless of the perpetrators’ motivations, for an organisation that is directly impacted, the result of a terror act is the same: often the immediate or permanent loss of employees with survivors and bereaved families needing extensive physical and mental health support throughout the recovery process.

However, terrorism is intended to create fear much further than those directly affected. It is a personal attack on our values and way of life and traumatic stress symptoms may be experienced by those who were not bereaved or injured. Workplaces can experience high levels of disruption in the days after a terror attack as communities struggle to make sense of what has happened. A general and widespread increase in stress, anxiety and depression tends to be seen.

This reduction in mental health inevitably leads to increased sickness absence but there are other less obvious effects in the workplace. Where people are focused on their own sense of safety, their cognitive function is generally impaired – meaning a deterioration in concentration, focus and decision-making skills. Changes in behaviour are common particularly the avoidance of crowded places or heightened anxiety around visiting locations that could be perceived as a target. There can be reduced motivation or even disinterest in work with some people feeling it is disrespectful to carry on with “business as usual.”

As acts of terror are predicted to become more frequent, companies and communities must become better prepared to manage the direct and indirect psychological impact.

The app is extremely useful. I feel if this had been given out as an option after the shooting many of us would be in a better place through using the self-help section. The sections help to break down what you are feeling into bite-sized pieces. Having it explained through the app also made it less intimidating and ensured me that going to seek professional help was ok, “what was going through my mind was normal after what I went through.”

After Pulse (the nightclub terror attack that killed 49 people in Orlando, Florida in 2016), my mother would say “I’m sorry but I don’t want to say the wrong thing”. This made me feel guilty for putting the pressure on her and putting her in that type of situation. The Supporting Others section is extremely powerful for family members and business leaders dealing with helping others after trauma. Many do not know what to say or do and often make the simple mistakes mentioned on the video. It is also important for those working in the disaster relief realm to remember to take care of themselves.

Survivor of the 2016 Pulse nightclub terror attack