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Shooting Trauma

  1. Jan 9, 2007 #1
    The other day, a friend of mine and her dad came face to face with one of my country's most wanted murders, while bike riding. He had already killed one guy and injured a couple more just minutes before. She was fired at and got shrapnel in her neck and arm. Her dad had his nose broken badly. Luckily they got away and the man has now been caught. Both my friend and her dad are fine physically. However she refuses to admit what has happened and is slowly becoming more and more drawn in. She hates company and will frequently go on long runs. This is bothering and hurting all the people around her. She walked out on a psychologist the other day saying she didn't need his help. What can I do to help her through this? Everytime you try and confront her about it she brushes it over or gets really angry and walks off.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 9, 2007 #2
    This sounds serious, so don't listen to anyone here, we are all a bunch of non-professionals that believe we know the answer to all. Instead, ask a professional, probably a psychologist, about what you can do to help your friend.
  4. Jan 9, 2007 #3
    The psychologist doesn't know what to do because she won't co-operate, people have kind of left it up to me being the "best friend" to talk to her about it, its so hard, I know that it must have been terrible but I wish she would just face it and not block it out, her mum is absolutely devastated
  5. Jan 9, 2007 #4


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    No, they need to leave you out of it as anything other than just her friend and try to get her professional help. She may just need time to get over it, but as mattmns said, we're not qualified to make that judgement.
  6. Jan 9, 2007 #5


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    Perhaps ask another psychologist to see her? Psychologists should know that not every patient is going to cooperate, especially during an initial visit, and should be better prepared than the rest of us to deal with that. But, a lot of that is just the rapport that a psychologist can build with the patient, and sometimes one person can get through when another can't. Actually, she'd probably be better seeing a psychiatrist than a psychologist. If she's unable to cope at all on her own, she may need the assistance of medication to help her calm down in the short term until she can get ahold of herself to start coping.

    However, you said this only happened "the other day." That sort of experience is going to be traumatic, and her reaction is not at all surprising. People react to trauma in a lot of different ways...denial, withdrawal, blaming others, blaming themselves, etc. How is her father doing? Since he shared the experience with her, he might be the only one who can talk to her about it at first.

    Also, how is everyone acting toward her? People have a natural tendency to be concerned about a friend or family member going through something like that, and may be making a big fuss over her at a time when she would rather just try to get back to her normal routine as much as possible, so she might be withdrawing from the excessive attention. But I can only guess at that. She might also just be so scared to go back outside after such an experience that she's withdrawing to avoid that fear.

    Do you know what her previous attitude was about psychologists or psychiatrists? You've seen the threads here about people who are suspicious of them and whether they can really do anything, so if she already held that bias against psychologists before this happened, or thinks they're only someone you see if you're totally crazy, then she's going to be more resistant to seeing one now. If she had a positive attitude about them in the past, but is now resisting seeing one, then it's more likely denial.

    Is she at all religious? Many clergy have experience in counseling their parishioners through traumatic experiences, and she may be willing to talk to a trusted clergy member rather than a psychologist if she is religious.

    If she'll only talk to you, then the next best thing is for you to see the psychologist and ask about strategies for helping her. Find out what kind of questions you should ask, or how you might direct her to cope, or if you should just listen quietly for a while, etc., or just to vent your own frustrations over bearing the weight of such a responsibility of helping your friend deal with such a serious event.

    My gut feeling is to give her a few weeks to just let it all sink in and for her to come to grips with what happened on her own, and then if she still is in denial and not coping well, to revisit the idea of seeing a specialist. I would think most people think they don't need a psychologist to deal with their fear, and only if they really can't cope on their own is it necessary. So, if you give it a few weeks and she still isn't coping, she may be more willing to admit it isn't something she can just get over without help.

    Edit: One last thought. You may have to just get firm with her and her family if this goes on more than a couple weeks and she's still refusing to seek professional help. Something very direct, like, "I really care about you, and I want to see you get over this, but I can't do it alone. I'd like you to see a psychiatrist/psychologist who can help you better than I can. If you want, I can go with you or take you there. I won't allow you to continue withdrawing or let you self-destruct over this."
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2007
  7. Jan 10, 2007 #6


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    Intuitively, I would expect that psychologists want someone to come of their own will because any change they can effect happens within the person. It's not like they press buttons and things improve. Take this as just my opinion, but I think they merely ask the right questions, which should lead a person in a socratic way to new insights. That she walked out on a previous psychologist either means that the psychologist was obviously unskilled or that she isn't ready to talk about it.

    Perhaps see another psychologist about what you can do, but I would hesitate before trying to force her to see another one. Again, just my opinion. Perhaps go on long runs with her, without saying anything.
  8. Jan 10, 2007 #7


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    Go out and buy a "Purple Heart" medal and give it to her. :)
  9. Jan 10, 2007 #8


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    I've never been to one, but I'd think a good psychologist should be able to ask the right probing questions, make the right insights, and draw out the problem, even in an unwilling patient.
  10. Jan 10, 2007 #9
    Thanks everyone.
    She isn't a big fan of psychologists she walked out on one when she was about 7 saying exactly the same thing.
    Her dad is coping very well, he was trained and spent many years in the army.
    My dad is a psychiatrist and is trying to sort the matters out a bit
    She is getting really sick of interviews with the press, and magizines, she has become a mini celebraty here and so is really just getting sick of talking about the facts.
  11. Jan 10, 2007 #10


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    Is there someone on a more mundane level, like a counselor that she would talk to? My wife was in a serious car-crash about 25 years ago that left her right arm (temporarily) paralyzed and left her almost blinded due to a fat embolism that caused brain damage. She's pretty much recovered now, but I used to have horrible dreams about those injuries and I wish I had consulted with someone who could have helped me work through that. For many years, I was stricken by the fear of her loss and would wake up sweating in a panic if the phone rang while I was asleep.

    I hope you can help her get help. I didn't get that help.
  12. Jan 10, 2007 #11


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    Ugh, I'm sure all the nosy media is just making it worse. Maybe your dad can start getting her some help she needs as your dad more than as a psychiatrist (I know it's probably a conflict of interest of some sort for him to be her doctor, though, maybe not...but maybe if she just gets comfortable talking to him in general, she'll be more willing to talk to him more "officially" later). The weekend is coming...is there any chance you could arrange something with your dad that the two of you could invite her to do something with you out of town and away from the media? Maybe a long car ride somewhere interesting? If you're all stuck in a car together, she might start opening up a bit if you don't push too hard and just let conversation somewhat naturally drift to allow her to talk if she wants (or maybe your dad will know just the right things to say to prompt her to open up more).
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