How Does Mass Shootings Impact Mental Health?
Mass shootings are events where multiple people are shot, often resulting in fatalities and injuries. These events can have a significant impact on the mental health of individuals, even those who were not directly involved. It is essential to seek support and resources if you or someone you know is struggling with the aftermath of a mass shooting.
Who's Most Affected by a Mass Shooting?
Researchers understand how shootings impact survivors and members of the communities. They know less about how the violence affects people not directly exposed. But we do know that just watching the news can impact our mental health.
Certain factors can increase the risk of severe psychological trauma if you:
- Were suffering from mental health issues before the shooting
- Are a female
- Have less social support
- Are close to someone who was injured or died in the shooting
- Live near the attack area
How Does Media Coverage of Mass Shootings Affect Mental Health?
Experts believe that the frequent occurrence of mass shootings and the easy access we have to news about them can harm our mental well-being. If you know someone who has experienced a mass shooting, it might affect them even more.
It's not just on the news; we also see these events on social media. Sometimes, the videos and images on social media can be even scarier, and we might even watch them as they're happening.
The more news we watch about a shooting, the more stressed we can become. Especially when we see graphic images, it can make our stress even worse. Remember that too much stress can lead to various health issues.
Here are some ways that being exposed to news about mass gun violence or being directly affected by it can impact your mental health:
Many teenagers worry about the possibility of a shooting happening at their school, which can lead to anxiety. Adults may avoid certain places due to the fear of mass shootings. Watching or reading about these events can create a cycle of distress, making you constantly anxious about future violence. This is called "perseverative cognition." Anxiety disorders like panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder can result, and they may also have physical effects such as sleep problems, headaches, and stomach issues. People might also resort to unhealthy habits like binge drinking, lack of exercise, or poor eating habits.
Watching a lot of media coverage of traumatic events can make you feel stressed and anxious. Some people even develop symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or acute stress disorder, which can affect your mental and physical health.
It's been observed that children who have been through a school shooting are more likely to be prescribed antidepressants. This is particularly the case for young people who live close to the location of the shooting.
Do Mass Shootings Affect Certain Groups of People Differently?
Mass shootings can make people feel upset or emotionally numb, and some may even develop serious mental health issues, even if they aren't directly involved. But the impact can be stronger for those who were close to the event, knew someone who got injured, or lived nearby.
When a shooter explicitly targets a particular group, it can directly affect the mental health of the people in that group.
How Do Mass Shootings Harm Kids?
Mass shootings can harm kids in several ways. When a shooting occurs, especially at their school, it can affect their mental health and their academic performance. This can create a cycle where their mental health issues make it harder for them to do well in school.
After a shooting, students often miss more school, and some may leave school altogether. They are more likely to repeat a grade, and their test scores tend to be lower.
Kids who experience a school shooting are less likely to finish high school, go to college, and graduate from college. They also have a challenging time finding jobs, and when they do, they usually earn less money, especially in their mid-20s.
How Can I Take Care of Myself After a Mass Shooting?
Seek local help
Look for resources in your community, like counseling services offered by schools or organizations around you.
Connect with others
Talk to people who have experienced similar experiences or were affected by the shooting. This can provide the comfort and support you need.
Talk with others
If you have a job that involves responding to mass shootings, like being a police officer or funeral director, you may be exposed to traumatic details for a long time. This can impact your mental health, so be mindful of it.
Limit what you see
Watching excessive news coverage, especially with graphic images, can increase your stress levels and potentially worsen your mental health. Set limits on what you see and avoid watching videos that might upset you. If you have children, decide how and if you will talk to them about the event, and limit their exposure as well.