The aftermath of mass shootings

Tragic events can happen in seconds and leave victims with a lifetime of emotional trauma.

By Monserrat Solis, Co-Editor-in-Chief

After the Thousand Oaks shooting that left 12 people dead and injured about 20 more, we are left to wonder – what happens in the aftermath of a National tragedy and how can people cope?

Mass shootings result in emotional and physical scars as well as death. The American Psychological Association states that most survivors show resilience, but some “experience ongoing mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.”

“It was traumatizing,” said Sarah Rose DeSon to CNN, who was a survivor of the Thousand Oaks shooting, after looking back to the scene where her friend Cody Coffman shielded her from the shooter.

Survivors may feel traumatized and can create long-term distress through neurobiological effects experienced by threats to life and have an altered assumption of safety, according to Shattered Assumptions (Towards a New Psychology of Trauma) by Ronnie Janoff-Bulman.

There are also people who experience survivor’s guilt: a feeling of guilt that arises after living through a catastrophe in which others die, like Tim Dominguez who repeatedly apologized to the families who were affected after running to safety with his stepson when the shooting started.

“They’re kids, just kids. I’m so sorry,” Dominguez said to an ABC7 reporter.

The APA offers tips to manage distress in the aftermath of a shooting: talking about it and asking for support, allowing time to grieve and engage in healthy behaviors such as balanced meals or avoiding alcohol and drugs. Seeking professional help from a psychologist may also be needed to move forward.

Anthony Charuvastra, doctor and writer for Psychology Today, expresses that the repeat of National tragedies like the shooting in Las Vegas affect people’s vulnerability and describes these events as “psychologically altering.”

These deplorable events can happen anywhere, schools, places or worship, concerts and office buildings. They stir fear inside adults, parents and children; it can become distracting and even consuming.

Charuvastra stresses that trying to find a way to feel safe is essential. Getting in touch with reality, helping others, managing exposure to the media and learning to live with fearful events and not in spite of them are coping mechanisms everyone can use.

The Disaster Distress Hotline is available 24 hours a day and can help people who are experiencing emotional distress by offering support and resources, for help call 1-800-985-5990. Reaching out to family and friends can help in the long-run, having someone to talk to and count on will help the recovery process. Do not be afraid to seek help, there are resources out there.

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