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Triggering Elephants In The Room on Mental Health

Trauma and shock meets Sydney’s Bondi Junction, and on a weekend, out of the blue.

By Justine CrowleyPublished about a month ago 7 min read
Triggering Elephants In The Room on Mental Health
Photo by Victoria Druc on Unsplash

No matter where you live in the world, the recent stabbings inside Sydney's Westfield Bondi Junction has brought out some heroism, as well as bravery, unresolved trauma, shock, and unconscious and unresolved mental health challenges to name. This circumstance has also brought out kindness and generosity in abundance. All of those elephants in the room, metaphorically speaking. America has g*ns, while Australia has k!iv#s. No country or circumstance is ever perfect. The elephant in the room when it comes to this article in relation to the human psyche for me is writers block right now, among other things that last Saturday (as at the time of writing this particular bit) seemed to have triggered. Based on this unfathomable event, I am doing my best to ensure that this article is part wisdom, part memoir, so that others can also heal.

By Patricia E on Unsplash

It does not matter where in Sydney, Australia (let alone anywhere in the world) you live; these circumstances on Saturday the 13th of April 2024 were completely left field.

Why would someone with schizophrenia be weaned off their medication? That, and many other questions remain unanswered, and could be for quite some time.

Perhaps the attacker (Joel Cauchi) thought he was ok until he clearly wasn't. Mental health is complicated. Emotional journalism came to the fore, and survivors guilt, whether you were at this mall at the time or not is ever so real; even though it pays to be grateful that you survived, or at the very least not be physically injured whatsoever.

Saw this in the flesh at Bondi Junction on Sunday the 21st of April 2024. Photo taken by the author.

The floral tribute in nearby Oxford Street Mall was (and still is) inspirational, and if it was not for a busy work period (engaging in a temporary role for the Government 5kms away that same Saturday night literally saved my bacon), together with pet sitting; I would have been worse for wear, and it would have been awesome to have laid a bunch of flowers right away; yet clearly I was not in the mental headspace to be doing that. Furthermore, the Thursday following the stabbings, the Westfield Shopping Centre at Bondi Junction re-opened, but only for community reflection from the attack (not terrorism) that killed six people, and injured twelve others, including a nine-month old baby. (Thankfully that baby is now back home with its father.) The mental health effects from countless more people is going unnoticed, including near misses, and those people who have once experienced some joy from visiting this particular shopping centre in the past. The latter applied to me, and this is why these stabbing attacks can affect the mental health of sensitive people and empaths, of who had happy and life saving memories at that particular shopping centre, and with the area of the mass stabbing attack as a whole.

Going towards the floral tribute inside Westfield Bondi Junction. Photo taken by the author on this train trip.

Despite dog sitting at the time, I had pure intentions to visit on the first day of Westfield Bondi Junction re-opening; yet a combination of a dog barking hysterically the moment I left the house (despite giving him the right treats), and feeling a bit sick and off when approaching the train station were signs that yours truly was far from ready to pay this area a visit, and pay my respects.

By Alexandra Tran on Unsplash

Bondi Junction is a wellness hub, where the place of the attack once provided me with happy and healing experiences from yoga to breath work, as well as participating in certain activities in this mall for free, or for a low cost for Westfield Plus members. All nourishing and natural ways to heal unresolved traumas in staying mentally, physically, and emotionally well; and in making the most of ones leisure time otherwise. Furthermore, my first physiotherapist has a clinic not far away, and if it was not for her at Bondi Junction, my aching back (first time that one had ever experienced back pain) back in 2019 on the cusp of burnout was a life saving and meaningful experience.

By Quang Tri NGUYEN on Unsplash

During the Covid lockdowns in 2021, an emergency visit to the dental surgeon needed to happen, where I had an operation on an infected tooth. On the day of the procedure, my normal surgeon in Sydney CBD was unwell (had to stay within 5km from home, even for essential treatments), and therefore the only alternative was to travel to Westfield Bondi Junction to receive that much needed surgery, where the mall was eerie, due to stay at home orders. Thankfully that tooth was saved, and therefore the operation was a success.

When a stabbing attack unfolds in a place and area, while a psycho (who clearly has a severe mental illness) is on the loose with a k*ife, all of those happy memories of such a place seems to suddenly be taken away, just like that. Such a circumstance naturally causes a mentally well person otherwise to seek some counselling, as a result of an unexpected relapse in one's mental health as a result.

Taken by the author inside Westfield Bondi Junction on Sunday the 21st of April 2024.

Also unexpectedly, some tears were gushing down my face, when I was finally ready and courageous to visit the place of the stabbing attacks (Westfield Bondi Junction), and Bondi Junction as an area one short week later, because the floral tribute in Oxford Street Mall, and inside the mall evokes a different emotional response while physically there, rather than seeing such on our screens on repeat. That paved the way for healing.

Also signed the condolence book. The NSW Governnent is also allowing people to sign online too if they wish. Photo taken by the author.

It is sad to sense some divisiveness around the issue, and the way that us humans cope with such tragic and traumatic events is due to past programming, trauma (whether resolved or unresolved), and life experiences. Speaking to a few retailers when visiting the area yesterday (as at the time of writing), while being mindful in the way I start and approach such conversations, considering the high volume of customers they have to serve; many are still in shock with hearing one gun shot (a police inspector pulled the trigger on the attacker, because he refused to put his knife down when politely asked to) in the building in which they work.

There is a fine balance between keeping the economy going, and in getting mental health assistance where appropriate.

Someone who served me at a large department store was honest about his experiences, and therefore we hugged one another with permission. He was not ok. And that is ok to not be ok at the time either.

Outside a floor at Myer inside Westfield Bondi Junction. Went inside this store to buy a candle. Photo taken by the author.

The mood at Westfield Bondi Junction was mellow, and there were counsellors on hand for people to talk to, and it was nice to buy a bunch of flowers (not to impress, but rather to impress upon) in tribute to those fellow humans who did not fare so well, as all of those adults who were injured are still in hospital to this day. Everyone was moving around at a slow and mindful place, and much respect to centre management for not putting on any music, and for not running any advertisements in centre (advertising screens were replaced with messages of support, and black ribbons). The service received from the retail staff was wonderful/better than expected, considering the trauma that them (and/or their coworkers) have been, and are still going through. Labrador therapy dogs were also available for pets.

This is where companies normally advertise their brands. Thank you Westfield for this display, and no music inside the centre, when visited on Sunday the 21st of April 2024. Photo taken by the author.

Some people (sadly) see such acts of empathy as woke.

This Bondi Junction stabbing attack also impacted my mental health, going back to memory lane, during the Covid Pandemic back in 2020, when a customer in the building I was working at fell down and took her own life, the day after celebrating my 40th Birthday mind you, where I heard a sudden thump behind me - behind the elevators opposite the shop I was working alone in at the time. Luckily I was tidying up the cabinet, and therefore had my back to the trauma unfolding at the time. Clearly it still affected me, and the recent Bondi Junction attacks clearly opened yet another can of unwanted worms to deal with. At that time, I desperately needed a face to face counselling session (which centre management organised), yet barely got any support from this particular employer, where at least a couple of days off from work would have been nice, rather than a transfer to work at their other store; despite all my wages being funded by the Government at the time (on JobKeeper, due to the pandemic). Therefore it was really sweet (sorry for the pun, as I was working with something sweet in that shop, while setting up my current business) karma to find out that their shop at Westfield Bondi Junction is now permanently closed. Comments about the smiles on my face when realising this were obvious by others nearby. That also helped me heal from what happened at Bondi Junction on the 13th of April 2024.

Was provided with one of these when visiting Westfield Bondi Junction to reflect, heal, and to pay my respects from this attack. Photo taken by the author.

People do heal from such tragic and traumatic events and circumstances at different paces, and that is to be respected. People matter.

Some retailers have not opened their doors at Bondi Junction just yet. When re-visiting the mall and area after the attack, just over one week later; people respected one another's energy, and it is was nice to engage in a bit of retail therapy in a quiet mall for a change, and not one full of hustle and bustle. This just goes to show that everyone's mental health matters. There are times where you thought you had gotten over the grief of a loss or a trauma, and when such is re-visited, the healing journey could come as a pleasant surprise. Be gentle with yourself.

By Chandra Oh on Unsplash
By __ drz __ on Unsplash

traumaschizophreniarecoveryptsdhumanitycopingCONTENT WARNING

About the Creator

Justine Crowley

Freelance Internet Moderator/UX Writer/UX Consulting Designer/Graphic Designer

Lives in Sydney, Australia. Loves life.

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