Another week and another terrorist incident in my beloved London. To me it almost feels like disruption due to terrorist incidents is sadly just becoming the norm. But I think it is very different to previous times. There now seems to be a cycle in the UK, it goes like this…
Terrorist incident – grieving process & outpouring of love – British defiance & get back to normal ASAP.
I am left thinking about what the effects are overall though. The British are quite well renown for their stiff upper lip mentality… Keep calm and carry on! They’re not very open when discussing feelings and stuff that hurts them. What is the real effect?
There are many victims of a terrorist incident. Those with a physical injury are usually easy to identify and the first to have assistance, those that were nearby and not physically injured have the potential to have a mental health injury, the helpers like emergency services and hospital staff can have a secondary traumatic injury, whereas they were not directly there at the point of impact but they witnessed some of the horrific scenes afterwards, and finally those that see some of the horrific scenes on the TV and through the media.
I’ve seen terrorist incidents from a few different viewpoints now. As a nurse I’ve looked after patients involved in incidents in London. I have personally been close to both a grenade attack and shooting incident when working in Africa, where people close to me have died and been injured and have felt the fear that I’m going to die any second. Now living away from central London I have watched events unfold through the media. If I’m honest this is what I worry about the most.
I remember the first time thinking about the media effect on terrorism was in December 2014 when the Lindt Cafe in Sydney was held under siege. I was at home doing the ironing and this came on the news channel. Now I’ve never been to Australia, and have never been to a Lindt cafe so had no connection to the scene but I have to say this really effected me. I didn’t know if it was because of my past encounters with trauma and terrorism or if this was a new thing I was witnessing. The events played out over the news channels, the hostages names were found out and family members spoke, it was on TV like it was a movie, but the realisation of this being a real event with real people and lots of explosions and shooting. I remember seeing one person receiving CPR and then wondering if this was a hostage or a terrorist. I was also thinking this is the worst time a week or so before Christmas these people all had a family and a story behind them. I think out of the 16 hour siege I must have watched about 8 hours that day, up to the end. Most of that in tears while considering the stories of those involved!
The one thing that intrigues me is the unknown effect of the media on these events. Natural curiosity makes people watch these things as they are happening, but this year I have seen unconsolable people being interviewed as witnesses, I’ve seen CPR performed on terrorists in the middle of the day, I’ve seen hysterical families looking for their relatives on the media, while knowing the likelihood 2 days after a terrorist attack is that their loved one is a victim they just don’t know it yet. I’ve also seen the media make incredible mistakes in reporting names of people involved before the police have found all contacts and future threats.
Is there anyway that the media could be more responsible in the reporting of these attacks. Reducing the overwhelming effect of the media on the general population. Report facts as opposed to speculation, consider what images are being sent to the media. Let the police and emergency services do their jobs and when they have something to report that is ready to be public information they will let everyone know. In a world of social media the responsible thing to do is give any footage or pictures to the police. It concerns me because not only I might be watching but so might our children, even worse the terrorist or other potential terrorists might be watching to see how much “terror’ was created.
The main aim of terrorism is to create mass terror of everyday situations. In the UK we have become used to this over the years. I’ve learnt that these have no place in any religion and are indiscriminate to all people. In my mind the only way to conquer it is to approach it with love, empathy and respect to those involved, and although difficult at times, to not let it affect the way in which you go about your normal everyday life.
Keep Calm and Carry On!