Coping with the trauma and tragedy of mass shootings

Suggestions to help yourself and others and break the cycle of violence

Sacramento, California – On May 24, 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, were killed in a horrific mass shooting. Ten days earlier, 10 people had been killed in a mass shooting in Buffalo, New York. One month earlier, six people had been killed and 12 injured in a mass shooting in central Sacramento. These mass shootings have a profound impact on the communities where they occur and on the country as a whole, leading to widespread grief, sadness, fear and anger.

Caroline Zirou is a psychiatrist at UC Davis Health who specializes in trauma and how it affects mental and physical health. Below, it offers suggestions on how people can cope with the mental health effects of these horrific tragedies and offers suggestions for channeling negative emotions into positive change.

People have many reactions to tragedies

Countless people are sad and angry about the death of these children. Other emotions or reactions may include shock, numbness – including extreme shock, or desensitization after so many events – distrust, weakness, despair, and media avoidance, to name just a few.

Tragic events far away can affect us emotionally

Indirect trauma can affect us, even if it did not happen to us immediately. Listening to it on the news can also trigger symptoms that fall into the category of post-traumatic stress disorder, such as flashbacks, nightmares, hypervigilance, depression, irritability, panic symptoms and more. It is important that you do not hesitate to contact someone’s support network or healthcare professional for support.

Trauma can affect physical health

Trauma affects the whole person, so things like indigestion, muscle tension, insomnia and headaches are perfectly normal. It is important to know that everyone reacts differently and there is no right or wrong when it comes to grief from human tragedy.

Examples of self-care

Self-care can improve one’s physical and mental well-being. Examples of self-care activities include: getting a good night’s sleep, eating healthy, organizing a therapy cycle, talking to a friend, walking, meditating, using artistic expression and doing something positive and supportive for a child or adult in need (helping a neighbor with homework). for home, for example, or volunteering at a food bank). The Centers for Disease Control has online resources for mental healthincluding self-care, coping with stress, helping children cope and grief and loss.

Helping others

During a tragedy, offering support to those involved is a priority. When we meet distressed people, in order to support them effectively, we should always ask them: “What would be more useful? “What do you need right now?” instead of imposing our own strategies.
It is normal to feel angry about what happened.

It’s normal to feel outraged. After all, there is a lot of pain in our world as it is, and this is a trauma that can be prevented. As children belong to vulnerable populations and are more often victims, it is our collective responsibility to protect and defend our children. How can we do it specifically? The key is to find your strength.

Use your power for change

Identify your power, use it and expand it. What talents and talents could you channel to promote effective change? Photography, podcasts, documentaries, political activism, writing a collection of stories from people who have witnessed or experienced gun violence, awareness-raising events, fundraising events, or organizing a play like V-Day (a global all-activist movement) examples of ways in which people can use their power.

Connect with other people to make changes

It is important to unite your voice with others who want to end armed violence. Isolation of individual forces slows down progress and gives the destructive forces an advantage. It is from the interconnection within a movement that people find and build strength. The power of the voices that together say “ENOUGH” will be greater than the sum of its individual whispered components.

Restore human dignity

And my most important piece of advice is perfectly stated by Richard F. Mollica in his toolkit, New Self-Care Protocol, developed to maintain health in the pandemic of health professionals: “Restore human dignity through kindness and compassion.” Only in this way can we break the cycle of violence. Not with more violence, no matter how hurt we may feel, but by reversing the cycle and creating a new one: a spiral of goodness and peace.


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