PTSD from Mass Shootings & the 3 Phases of Healing That Have Proven to Be Most Helpful

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The trauma of mass shootings is unlike any other, but there are specific types of support that can make all the difference in the psychological recovery of the victims. I’m Kyle Kittleson. This is MedCircle News.

Survivors of mass shootings face higher rates of PTSD than most other types of trauma - likely because the incidents happen without warning, on such a large scale, in the most routine of places, like schools, churches, concerts, and so on. So these survivors - who come from every race, religion, and socioeconomic background - all have a need for a specific healing process based on their uniquely disturbing shared experience.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there are 3 phases of healing after a mass shooting - and there are some tried-and-true types of support and resources that have shown to be most effective.

The first stage of healing is in the short-term. It’s called the “acute phase” and it’s defined by denial, shock, and disbelief. The most helpful type of support in this phase is giving the survivors the knowledge that support is available to them. Just knowing that support is accessible gives the victims a sense of community, which is vital for their short-term mental health and combats their feeling of isolation. They need to know help is available should they need it.

The second stage is the “intermediate stage” and it’s defined by fear, anger, anxiety, difficulty paying attention, and depression. The most effective thing to do in this phase is to set up communities for long-term support for the victims. This happens by training organizations like schools and churches to provide trauma-informed care. This is because the survivors need to feel safe on an ORGANIZATIONAL level - physically, psychologically, and emotionally. They need to rebuild a sense of control.

The final phase is long-term and takes place several months after the event. While some survivors report a greater sense of self-worth and gratitude - some experience flashbacks and a debilitating anxiety or substance abuse. This is often made worse when these sufferers see OTHER survivors improving, and makes them feel disconnected. Longer-term support involves periodic check-ins from local mental health professionals and ensuring the survivors stay active in the community.

Knowing this about the healing process can help response teams provide a better national response to mass shootings and more effective recovery resources.

Source: American Psychological Association (APA)


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