Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The Aftermath of a Mass Shooting

The unbelievable has happened in our community.  Maybe it has happened in yours too.  A terrible trend has gained a foothold in our world.  Mass shootings have impacted the lives of those who have lost loved ones well as those who witnessed or knew of someone who witnessed the horrendous, senseless crimes.

It can cause people to respond in a variety of ways depending upon many factors.  Some of those being: age, cultural values, spiritual belief's, psychological well-being,  and family history (ACA Fact Sheet).

The Reality
People might experience trouble with sleep, flashbacks, intense memories, feeling sad and depressed, angry and helpless.  Bessel Van der Kolk MD, a trauma expert and author of The Body Keeps Score writes about how trauma shows up physically.  It is no exception with these incidents where people can experience headaches, stomach aches, dizziness, anxiety, panic, and feeling numb.

People may feel that life is short and not want to put things off, like the baby boom after 9-11.  Some want to be close to people, others want to isolate.  It depends on the person and where they come from.  Some tend to over or under-eat.  Memory can be impacted where "A" students temporarily begin to fail.  Ones world view can be shaken as their life has suddenly been altered.  (www.counseling.org)

The aftermath of a mass shooting can cause unhealthy coping to occur if all you knew before was to cope in unhealthy ways.  Seeking help if you find yourself feeling suicidal, wanting to hurt others, or harming yourself by cutting or using substances to dull the pain, is critical.
1-800-273-TALK (8255) The National Suicide and Prevention Hotline (24 hours/7days)

The Rebuilding
A tragedy can cause a community to come together and share their pain, know each other, tear down fences, and build again.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA) compiled a list of 3 stages that people typically go through following a mass shooting:

1.   The Acute Phase:  often characterized by denial, shock and disbelief.  Survivors need their feelings normalized, assuring them that help is available even if they do not take advantage of it.  This helps them feel connected and informed.  It is important to validate their feelings without giving quick-fix answers.  This will only cause them to stop talking and isolate further.

2.  The Intermediate Phase:  often characterized by fear, anger, anxiety, difficulty paying attention, depression, disturbed sleep.  More long term care may be needed here.

3.  The Long Term Phase:  several months after the event.  They may continue to experience periods of adjustment and relapse, depending upon their predisposing factors (support system prior to event, prior untreated mental health issues, etc.).  For those who were not raised with the capacity for resiliency, given the right help, many can grow to learn how to attach to people and receive comfort from others and become resilient.

This takes many shepherds looking out for the lost sheep who are running off on their own, isolating in their pain.  Many don't know how to heal from this level of trauma.  But the body of Christ, the people who represent Jesus, can notice them.  One at a time, looking for those who are wandering off.  

What the enemy intended for evil, the Lord can use for good.  Just don't share that with survivors, but by all means pray it for them.  All in His productive, redemptive time.  In the aftermath of a mass shooting, be quick to listen, slow to speak and eager to search out the wanderer so they may find community to help them rebuild.

Thank God for the foundation we find in Him.  Take care of yourself if you are helping others to rebuild after a mass shooting.

"Long Term outcomes for survivors of mass shootings are improved with the help of community connections and continuing access to mental health support" by Amy Novotney, 9/18.

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