If someone you know and care about has been involved in an accident, then it can be difficult to know what to do. You might want to help out, but be unsure of what this will mean in practice.

The support you lend can be invaluable, so it’s important that you don’t withhold it out of uncertainty. Let’s take a closer look at this problem, and how we might approach it.

How trauma affects your mental health

A traumatic experience, by definition, will have mental health repercussions. In some cases, these repercussions can be enduring. Even after the thing that produced the trauma has disappeared, the body might still produce the stress hormones associated with it.

You can think of this in evolutionary terms. Back when human beings were roaming hunter-gatherers in a natural environment, the presence of a single dangerous threat might have correlated with more dangers. Encounter one vicious predator, and you’ll automatically be on the lookout for others.

Cortisol and adrenaline can induce us to respond a threat in many different ways. Some people might freeze up, others might run away, while others might even try to fight their way out of the situation. 

In practice, this can mean that trauma victims suffer even after the stressful situation has gone away. We might suffer from flashbacks, reliving the traumatic event again, or feeling as though it is ongoing. Panic attacks can also result – these being exaggerated versions of a natural stress response, which occur when certain provocations come about.

How to support a loved one after an accident

So, how can we help our loved ones to deal with all of this? The short answer is through conversation. Encourage them to talk about what they’re going through, without forcing them to. Give them the space they need to process everything, but make yourself available whenever they need someone to turn to. 

You might also provide more practical support. If they need a lift to a counselling session, then you might provide it. You don’t even need to talk about what went on. Financial support can also be extremely helpful. This needn’t mean making direct monetary contributions; you can help start the process of making a personal injury claim, which can make the aftermath of the injury that much more manageable.


Dealing with all of this can be stressful for the person going through it. But it can also impose an emotional toll on the people who are providing the support. When you’re looking after a friend or family member, make sure that you also have a network in place that will help you to look after yourself.

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