In the last few days I’ve talked to people who have been shaken by the deadly shooting in Las Vegas. Mass shootings have a devastating psychological impact. They affect those who are witnesses on the scene, as well as family and friends of victims, first responders, and others who witness the events on news and social media. If you, or someone you care about is struggling in the aftermath of a trauma, here are some suggestions for coping.
- Talk about your feelings with others. It is normal to have complicated feelings about a traumatic event. You might have heightened thoughts or feelings about previous trauma, and this is normal. You might also feel anger, vulnerability, despair, numbness, or other painful emotions. Some people also experience physical changes, such as difficulty sleeping, poor concentration, lack of appetite, or irritability. This is also normal, and should gradually resolve within a couple of weeks.
- Pay attention to self care. One of the most important things you can do is to turn off social media and news about the event. While you may need important updates in the wake of a crisis, don’t immerse yourself in media coverage as this only adds to the difficulty of processing the event and moving forward. Instead, try to focus on life-affirming activities. Take a walk, listen to music, play with your pet, or share a meal with friends. Try to do these things even if you don’t feel like it at first. The benefits are worth the effort.
- If you have the ability, do something to help such as donate blood, or donate to a fundraising effort for victims. You may also decide to put your effort into advancing social change by joining with others who are working to make a difference.
- Seek professional support from a counselor or other medical professional if you find that your symptoms are worsening, or if you don’t feel better in a couple of weeks. There is hope, and you are not alone.