The impact of a court case
A legal court case involving a very difficult and tragic situation is extremely traumatizing for any individuals who were involved, whether it be a victim or a member of the jury. The process may have caused feelings of shock, stress, and tension for the individuals involved in the incidents that have led up to a legal investigation process and court case. Media attention, including social media and public commentary profiling the person, the incident itself, and the nature of the event can all serve to magnify these feelings.
Critical incident stress reactions are normal and expected when are involved in a tragic and frightening event. This is also true when we are requested to review information or testimony involving graphic, upsetting or disturbing details. These reactions can range from mild to intense, depending on the individual.
These stress responses are usually temporary and will often subside in three to six weeks. In the meantime, these reactions can make you feel uncomfortable, impact your concentration and disrupt your sleep patterns. A court case or an inquest can last days, weeks or months. Due to this timeline, the reactions that you experience can be more present at different points of the process.
It is important to externalize the feelings, as talking to someone (within the limits of the court rules) can be the best remedy. Keeping these reactions to yourself may only serve to temporarily bury the feelings, which may resurface when you least expect it.
The following information may help you recognize the symptoms described above in order to minimize the chance of any negative, long-lasting effects from being on a jury panel.
Facts about critical incident stress reactions
The majority of people who are involved in a critical incident develop a stress response; you are not alone. Individual reactions will vary according to life experience and our current personal situation. Stress responses can start at the beginning of the court case, or may begin hours, days, or even weeks after the case has concluded – there is no standard timeline. Reactions can vary depending on the severity, duration, suddenness and peoples’ individual ability to find meaning in the event.
Common reactions to a traumatic event
As a juror, you may have been required to review graphic information or listen to disturbing testimony that may impact you regardless of the outcome of the case. Your reaction to this process is a normal response. Second-guessing is part of a normal reaction to recounting facts and information that are upsetting or disturbing.
You may find that you question your own response to the situation even after the case has concluded. It is important to remember that when it comes to stress responses, hindsight is not a good perspective. Stress responses you can expect may include:
- Profuse sweating/night sweats;
- Upset stomach;
- Overall sense of fatigue;
- Muscle tension; and
- Disruption in normal sexual functioning.
- Problems concentrating;
- Difficulty making decisions;
- Poor attention span;
- Flashbacks to the case details; and
- Short-term memory problems (forgetting where you put your keys, etc.).
- Regret (i.e. “if only”);
- Fear of repetition of the event;
- Feeling disconnected from family and friends;
- Emotionally numb;
- Feeling alone or wanting to be alone; and
- Losing interest and/or having difficulty participating in activities that you usually enjoy.
Dealing with stress responses
- Get rest;
- Talk, talk, talk;
- Seek out support—personal and professional;
- Eat well and stay hydrated;
- Monitor use of alcohol and caffeine for any changes or increase in usage;
- Keep a normal schedule;
- Exercise or go for a walk – physical activity may help;
- If you wake up in the middle of the night: have a drink of water, read a little if you can’t get back to sleep and remember to take deep breaths; and
- If you have a flashback: breath in deeply through your nose and out through your mouth up to the count of 10 and then take notice of your current environment.
Access the program
To access your Saskatchewan Juror Assistance and Support Program, call toll-free 1-866-294-5035, the Shepell Employee and Family Assistance Program number, and identify yourself as a juror. Our professional counsellors are available to assist you 24/7/365.