Arash Javanbakht, Wayne State University – How to Protect Your Family From Horrific News – and Still Stay Informed

Bad news is a constant in today’s ultra-connected world.

Arash Javanbakht, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at Wayne State University, examines best practices to cope with this reality.

Arash Javanbakht, M.D., is a psychiatrist and serves as the director of the Stress, Trauma, and Anxiety Research Clinic (STARC). His work is focused on anxiety, trauma, and PTSD. He often helps civilians, refugees, and first responders with PTSD.

Several research studies at the STARC examine the impact of exposure to war trauma in adults and children Syrian and Iraqi refugees, and biological and psychological factors of risk and resilience. This research examines genetic and inflammation correlates of trauma as well. This work is funded by an NICHD R01 award. Also, use of art, dance and movement, and yoga and mindfulness in helping refugee families overcome stress.

STARC also researches neurobiology of psychotherapy, and utilization of augmented reality and telemedicine for providing in vivo treatment for anxiety disorders and PTSD.

Dr Javanbakht’s work has been featured on the CNN, National Geographic, Aljazeera, NPR, Washington Post, Scientific American, Science Magazine, The Lancet, Smithsonian, PBS, American Psychiatric Association Press Briefing, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and tens of other media outlets.

How to Protect Your Family From Horrific News – and Still Stay Informed


Over the past several years, an endless stream of painful stories and images coming out of Syria, Yemen and now Ukraine – as well as mass shootings in the U.S. – have become a regular part of our daily life. Trauma affects not only those who suffer through it; but also other people who are exposed in other ways, including the news, especially when it is visual, animated and highly relatable. 

Here are ways how to stay informed while minimizing harm:

– Limit the exposure. Learn what’s happening, then stop there. Avoid the urge for disaster voyeurism. 

– Limit the emotional intensity: Reading the news can protect you from the emotionally charged nature of television or radio coverage. If watching TV, choose channels and reporters who present information in a fact-based and less emotional way.

– Do not be lured into hours of scrolling through the same painful images.

– Take regular time away from tuning in.

– Do not ignore or avoid the positive news.

– Know your limits: Some people are more sensitive than others. 

– Take respite in activities that can fully absorb your attention and emotionally recharge you.

Negative news can also impact children.

– Do not express overly charged negative emotions in front of children. 

– Limit their exposure based on their age. 

– When they are exposed, in an age-appropriate way explain what is happening.

– Remind children that these sad events are not happening where they live.

– If needed, seek professional help.

Finally, sadness, anxiety, anger and frustration can be channeled into actions such as fundraising activities and volunteering to help the victims. This can even be a family activity that teaches children a mature and altruistic response to others’ suffering.

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