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An emergency service worker who encounters a traumatic event may experience some strong emotional or physical reactions which have the potential to interfere with their ability to function either at the scene or later on. Even when the event is over, it is very common, and in fact quite normal for people to experience emotional aftershocks when they have been involved in a horrible event.

The most important thing to remember is that these stress reactions are normal, and they have been caused by an abnormal event.

Sometimes the emotional aftershocks or stress reactions appear immediately after the event. Sometimes they may appear a few hours or a few days later. In some cases, weeks or even months may pass before any stress reactions appear.

The signs and symptoms of a stress reaction may last a few days, a few weeks or even a few months, and occasionally longer depending upon the severity of the event. With understanding and support of loved ones and peers, the reactions should pass more quickly. Occasionally the traumatic event is so painful that assistance from a mental health professional may be necessary. This does not imply weakness on the emergency service worker, but instead an awareness that the particular event was just too powerful for the person to manage alone.

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