Emotional wellbeing and the 40th anniversary
It is not unusual for people who have survived a traumatic event to experience increased anxiety, or other difficult thoughts and feelings, around the anniversary of the trauma. It is therefore understandable that during 2022 – the 40th anniversary of the Falklands War – people who lived through the war, or who have strong associations with 1982, may notice an increase in their thoughts and feelings about their experiences.
We hope that for most people, the 40th anniversary will be an opportunity to reflect on their experiences in a healthy way, and sometimes this may mean feeling sadness when remembering difficult events. However, for some people, the commemorative events of the 40th anniversary may trigger thoughts and feelings that feel overwhelming. While we are not suggesting that everyone who feels upset during this time needs professional help, we would like to offer you some ideas about how to help yourself, and each other, and to let you know how to access extra support if required.
Firstly, we would like to remind you that there is no shame in experiencing a normal human reaction to an abnormal experience.
Many people (both military and civilian) who lived through the Falklands War in 1982, experienced extreme levels of anxiety, distress and grief, both during and in the months following the war, which is a totally normal reaction to trauma.
However, for some people, these symptoms did not go away over time, and may get worse around anniversaries. These might include:
- Reliving the event through unwanted thoughts, nightmares, flashbacks, strong emotional to physical reactions to reminders of the trauma.
- Avoidance of thoughts, feelings or reminders about the trauma. Sometimes people use alcohol to avoid thoughts and feelings by making them go ‘numb’.
- Feeling ‘on guard’ or jumpy and easily startled. Sometimes this includes feeling very angry or irritable as well as worried or anxious.
- Difficult thoughts and feelings - trauma (including conflict) can impact the way we see ourselves, other people and the world. This can sometimes make it hard to connect with other people.
So, what can you do to feel better?
- Most people will feel better within a few weeks of the apex of the anniversary, with difficult thoughts and feelings becoming less frequent and severe.
- Some people find it helpful to attend organised events, but some people prefer to pay respects in their own way; we would advise you to do whatever suits you best.
- Although socialising with friends and other survivors can be part of a healing process, it is important that alcohol is not used to ‘numb’ thoughts and feelings.
- There are also a number of online self-help resources available. These are designed for people who have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but are also useful for anyone who has survived trauma. Some good examples are:
Very often, people feel embarrassed, ashamed or weak because they are still experiencing high levels of distress 40 years after the war, but please try to remember that there is no shame in feeling a range of strong emotions at this time.
You can also contact The Samaritans 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 51515 – this is a freephone number and an entirely confidential service.