Recovery: The Trauma of Active Shooter Situations

More unique cases appear in 2006. This year, we have a 13-year-old shooter, a shooter equipped with bombs, a female shooter, three cases stopped by civilians, and two shootings that happened in Seattle just four months apart. There are a plethora of cases I could focus on, but I want to zero in on Seattle this time. On March 25, a 28-year-old male began shooting at a rave party in a Seattle neighborhood, killing six people. On July 28, a 30-year-old male forced his way into the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle by holding a 13-year-old girl at gunpoint. One was killed, and five were wounded.

How does a community cope with the violence and tragedy of active shooter situations? For that matter, how does anyone cope with such a situation? According to the American Psychological Association, there are several steps you can take to recover from an active shooter situation. Remember also that the closer you are to the situation the harder it will be to recover. So, for those who just read the story in the newspaper or saw it on television, it may scare you a bit, but it won’t take you long to recover. Be patient with people who were in the situation; everyone is at a different point in their journey to recovery. It is also vital to point out the importance of maintaining mental health here. Recovery is a long and sometimes-drawn-out process, and it is important to be patient with yourself through that process. According to the APA, there are a plethora of emotions and hormones that will be coursing through your mind and body in the aftermath of this kind of situation: you could feel sorrow, anger, fear, grief, and even survivor’s guilt, or you could feel nothing. Your mind could go into a numb, shocked, disillusioned state. How your mind and body respond will be relatively unique to you.

There are several strategies you can use to help recover from the trauma.

Talk it through. Talk to your family or a support group or a counselor or a best friend or a spouse or really anyone. Just talk. Don’t suppress the emotions. Talking can help you sort through the feelings, even though the words coming out of your mouth may make no sense logically. And, talking is therapeutic.

BALANCE. Yes, I am using this word again. You will inevitably find your thoughts drifting back to the event. There are times those thoughts should be allowed to roam, but there are also times they should be set aside. During those times, try to engage in activities that make you happy so you can have a respite from the negativity.

Limit news consumption. Yes, news allows you to stay aware of what’s going on around you, but it can also be a lot for a recently traumatized mind to deal with. Set it aside and engage in activities that actively make you happy. You are not ignoring the world; you are investing in your own mental health.

Validate your Feelings. Yes that sounds new-agey, but realize that you have just gone through a traumatic event, and you will feel all kinds of things you may have never felt before. You are not going crazy; they are your body’s hormonal response to trauma. They are perfectly normal. Allowing yourself to feel them will help you actually deal with them instead of suppressing them.

Take Care of Yourself. Actively engage in healthy activities. You’ll be tempted to indulge in sweets and comfort foods, to feel, well, comforted. But, you need to fight those urges. Exercise, eat healthy, force yourself into routines. These things provide structure and healthy hormones and mental clarity that can help you deal with the complicated emotions surging through your brain. The bottom line is to be patient with yourself and allow yourself time to recover.

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