Mental health helplines inundated after Christchurch terror attacks

4:07 pm on 21 April 2019

Mental health helplines have been inundated with calls from people traumatised by media coverage of the Christchurch terror attacks.

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Photo: 123RF

People who saw the gunman's own video have been particularly affected.

The Mental Health Foundation's chief executive, Shaun Robinson, said some of the media coverage was ghoulish and too detailed in depicting the horror.

"Helplines and help services were pretty inundated in that first two weeks following the shooting and there's a big concern for the several thousand Kiwis who watched the online streaming of the event so really experienced it through media."

Mr Robinson said they are trying to develop processes on a national basis to reach out to those people including making available helplines such as 1737.

It is likely that the country will be dealing with the consequences of the shooting for people's well-being and mental health for some years to come, he said.

People should limit their exposure to the media during horrific events, Mr Robinson said.

He said immediately after the shootings there was saturation media coverage and the Mental Health Foundation, in conjunction with Homecare Medical and the Canterbury District Health Board, asked the media to limit disturbing coverage of the event.

"There's no need to go into the horrific detail when reporting on something like this, it's horrific enough that it has happened, but actual very graphic descriptions of what happened, chasing down people who were there, or first responders or witnesses, that starts to become quite ghoulish from the perspective of how media are treating a subject like this, and it really doesn't add anything to the national response to this issue or to the national recovery."

Mr Robinson said by and large the media took heed of that advice and acted quite responsibly.

He said there are ways to try and ensure traumatic events such as this do not have a major detrimental impact on your mental health including reaching out for help to one another, talking about how you feel and not focusing on the event, but instead concentrating on routine things in your life and things that generally make you happy.

"While some people will definitely need some pretty intensive support, you know many of us will be able to work through these events, and if we focus on building our well-being then we'll be able to get through this."

Mr Robinson said although not everybody is going to get post traumatic stress syndrome after viewing such disturbing footage, just processing it emotionally and psychologically can take some time and be pretty upsetting to a lot of people.

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

[http://wwwMental Health Lifeline]: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7) or text 4202

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email

What's Up: online chat (3pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 helpline (12pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-11pm weekends)

Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

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