TUESDAY, Oct. 17, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- Whether or not you have loved ones in the Middle East, the horrors of the violence and suffering in Israel and Gaza are heart-wrenching and difficult to bear.
â€œItâ€™s important to be informed, but donâ€™t stress yourself out," said Dr. Gary Small, chair of psychiatry at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey.
Ration your exposure to what you see, given the impact graphic news reports can have on mental health, Small advises in a hospital news release.
â€œWe live every day in a denial of the horrors out there in the world,â€ Small said, adding that catastrophic events, such as the massacres and kidnappings in Israel and the Sept. 11 terror attacks, put the very worst of human behavior in front of peopleâ€™s eyes.
He recommends finding a balance between being up to date with news and doing calming activities. These might include watching a light television show, spending time with loved ones or reading an engaging book.
Brutal events like the attacks in Gaza and Israel can also lead to â€œsocial contagion,â€ where information and images are amplified and a collective stress emerges, Small said.
To protect yourself, take breaks from social media, especially if you find yourself watching horrific images repeatedly, he advised.
Reports of the violence in the Middle East can also trigger anxiety and depression, both in children and adults, for those reading and viewing reports of whatâ€™s happening.
Dr. Stacy Doumas, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, offers some additional guidance for protecting children from disturbing media.
"The situation in Israel and Gaza is tragic," Doumas said. "It's OK to let children know innocent people have been impacted. Parents should help children avoid disturbing news and images, while providing them with age-appropriate information. Let them know that war is complicated and information online is not always accurate. Address their fears so they feel safe and supported."
Parents should listen and make themselves available to talk, child psychiatrists say. They should feel confident initiating the conversations. Donâ€™t assume your child doesnâ€™t know about it just because they havenâ€™t brought it up to you. Here are some other tips for parents:
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on mental health.
SOURCE: Hackensack Meridian Health, news release
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