On Valentine’s Day, February 2018, tragedy struck our nation once again. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in a town called Parkland, Florida, was the site of another school shooting. A young man opened fire on his previous campus with an assault rifle, taking the lives of 17 people. Many more were injured. Hundreds of students were deeply traumatized. The tragedy has maintained headlines and news for weeks as the young people of the school have become focal points of not just the event but a growing revolution in talking about gun control, policy reform, and trauma. The teenagers and parents involved in the tragedy have spoken outright about their experiences coping with the shooting and the trauma they are facing.
People who go through a tragedy like a school shooting are not the only ones who face symptoms of trauma. When live video, carnage, tears, details, and information are being broadcast 24/7, viewers at home can suffer trauma as well. Research has found that trauma can be third party. Consuming large amounts of media regarding mass shootings can induce symptoms of trauma in people. Difficulty sleeping, disturbing thoughts, anxiety, depression, and more manifest as a result of trying to process something unfathomable. Empathy is critical for doing what one can to try and help a situation out of their control. When empathy becomes problematic and weighs on your mental or physical health, it is time to take a step back.
Professionals suggest doing a social media and news “detox” to limit your intake. Avoid the news for a few days or a week altogether. If you feel you must stay up to date, do so in small segments. Set a timer, set restrictions on your smart devices, and abide by your limitations.
Talk to your loved ones and support network about what is coming up for you. You may have experienced trauma in your life which is not yet resolved. Seeing others suffer can be triggering. There may be themes of the trauma which trigger other untouched themes from underlying issues in your life. Open up to those around you and be honest about your experience.
Spend extra time in self-care wherever possible. Survivor’s guilt is a common symptom of trauma. Even though you weren’t there, you might feel guilty that other people have to live through such horrible tragedies. As is the case with the Stoneman Douglas shooting, there are numerous ways to get involved and support the survivors. However, it is important to recognize you can only do so much from where you are. In order to do anything, including maintaining the responsibilities of your own life, you have to be in good health. Take care of your mind, body, and spirit, through self-care practices which keep you centered, grounded, and balanced. Get plenty of sleep, eat a healthy and balanced diet, and do the things you love to do.
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