Responding to Stressful Events

Last revised: September 21, 2023

The impact of a stressful event can be immediate or delayed, and those affected directly or indirectly can feel a range of emotions and reactions.

During stressful events our reactions can affect us physically or emotionally. It can affect our thinking.
You might have trouble sleeping, eating, or paying attention. Many people have short tempers and get angry easily. You may have strong feelings right away. Or you may not notice a change until much later, after the crisis is over. Stress can change how you act with your friends and family.

These are normal reactions to stress and it may take time before you feel better and life returns to normal. Give yourself time to heal. It's ok to not be ok.

Things you can do:

Focus on what needs to happen today. Try to:

  • Spend time with family and friends
  • Eat meals together.
  • Help other people in your community as a volunteer. Stay busy.
  • Accept help from family, friends, co-workers, or clergy. Talk about your feelings with them.
  • Children look to adults for guidance and comfort. It is important to talk openly and honestly about what is happening. Try to explain the nature of the problem in a way they will understand. 
  • Let children know they can ask questions. Be patient, with yourself and everyone in your home.
  • Try to limit exposure to what is being watched on television and on social media.
  • News coverage of certain emergencies can be distressing. Never dismiss fears or anxieties. 
  • Reach out for support when needed.

When should I get help?

Sometimes we need to get help from a health professional such as a psychologist, family doctor, psychiatrist, social worker or nurse. Ask for help if you:

  • Are not able to take care of yourself or your children.
  • Are not able to do your job.
  • Use alcohol or drugs to get away from your feelings.
  • Feel extremely helpless.
  • Feel sad or depressed for more than two weeks.
  • Having thoughts of hurting self or others
  • Think about suicide.

Where can I get help?

Ottawa residents and families can access community mental health resources available in Ottawa: 

  • The Distress Centre answers calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with crisis line specialists providing confidential support. Callers can reach the Centre at 613-238-3311.
  • The Mental Health Crisis Line answers calls for people ages 16 or older 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Callers can reach the line at 613-722-6914. 
  • Tel-Aide Outaouais offers French-language mental health telephone support from 8 a.m. to midnight every day. Ottawa residents can call 613-741-6433 and Gatineau residents can contact 819-775-3223.
  • The Kids Help Phone provides confidential 24/7 phone (1-800-668-6868), Live Chat ( and text (text TALK to 686868) counselling support to children, youth and young adults. 
  • The Youth Services Bureau (YSB) provides youth and family counselling, crisis support, a 24/7 crisis line at 613-260-2360, walk-in counselling and an online crisis chat service for youth at
  • Walk-in Counselling Clinics - 613-755-2277. No referral is required for the Walk-In Counselling Clinic. You will be assisted, with no appointment, on a first-come, first-serve basis during the Walk-In Counselling Clinic hours. The Walk-in Counselling Clinic offers free in person sessions as well as video or phone counselling services in English, French, Arabic, Spanish, Somali, Cantonese and Mandarin at a variety of different locations. 
  • Counselling Connect provides quick access to a free phone or video counselling session, available in English, French and Arabic. You choose a convenient date and time. This service is for everyone: children, youth, adults and families in Ottawa and the surrounding area. There is no waiting list. Support Groups also available: Free mental health and addictions support in a group setting. Available in English and French. Led by peers or staff.
  • Ottawa Public Health Information at 613-580-6744 (TTY 613-580-9656).
  • 211 connects callers to community, social, government and health service information in Ottawa 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The service is free, confidential and multilingual.
  • is a simple way for children, youth and families to access the right mental health and addiction care, at the right time. Our partners provide care for every level of need. We match you with a partner that is best for your specific needs. also helps navigate the system for children, youth and families, struggling with complex mental health and addiction needs - guiding, problem-solving and managing ongoing care.


AccessMHA is for anyone who is 16 years of age or older, living in eastern Ontario, and looking for mental health and/or substance use/addiction services. If you need help and support, and are not sure where to go, reach out to us and we will connect you to the service you need.

For more resources available in Ottawa, please visit our Mental Health, Addictions and Substance Use Health Services and Resources web page.

Online resources include:

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