Updated: Feb 19, 2019
How to Cope after an Active Shooter Incident
Active shooter situations are deeply traumatic for all involved. While active shooter response trainings tend to focus on what to do before and during an active shooter event, there is little about how to deal with the trauma of this event after it is over. The following steps and suggestions are gathered from the American Psychological Association as a guide to recovering from an active shooter event.
The important thing to remember is that those involved in an active shooter event can and should experience a wide range of different emotions in its aftermath. These range from shock to numbness to anger to guilt, but they are perfectly normal and should never be ignored. A proactive stance to facing your emotions is much healthier than avoiding them.
Talk about it. Do not avoid it or ignore it. Talk to family and friends and people who have been through a similar situation; this can help you to cope and feel supported as you work through the pain and trauma.
Seek a balance. The active shooter event was traumatic and intensely negative, which can drive you to focus heavily on the negatives in your everyday life. Instead. Make a conscious effort to pay attention to and focus on the positives. You are alive; you live in a nice, warm house where you are safe; you have a family and a support group that has your back. A focus on these things can help you to balance out the negativity from the trauma of the event.
Turn off the news and invest your time elsewhere. The news is a valuable resource, but this is not the time for it to be a focus. The trauma you went through will only be made worse by the news of other tragic events going on. Instead, focus your attention on something that makes you happy. Find a productive hobby that lifts your spirits and focus energy on that instead of feeding the negativity.
Do not deny your emotions. They are perfectly normal, and they are part of the recovery process. Denying them will prevent you from moving past this stage in your recovery. Instead, accept that they are normal and find a coping mechanism, whether it is talking to a friend or family member or building furniture to pass the time.
Take care of yourself. It is easy in a post-traumatic situation to slip into laziness and disillusionment. However, this just feeds the negative emotions and slows down your recovery. It is far better to establish a routine and create some healthy habits like eating three balanced meals a day and exercising. This will help speed your recovery as it promotes positive hormones.
Help other people. One of the best things to do to help speed a recovery is to help other people through their problems. It can help you to focus on the positives in your own life, and it generally feels good to help other people.
Give yourself time to grieve. Do not rush it. It takes time. Grieving is a slow but steady process, and if you lost a loved one in the shooting, it can take even longer to fully recover. Realize that the emotions you are experiencing are perfectly normal and are actually a positive sign that you are moving forward in your grieving process.
Seek professional help if you need it. Professionals are there to help guide you through your grief and other emotions. They will help you learn to cope and to acknowledge your emotions in a healthy way. If you feel stuck or you just have no one to talk to and bounce your thoughts off of, a professional is there to help you. Do not be afraid to seek help if you feel you need it.
Active shooter events are traumatic and intensely negative, and no one will blame you for feeling a whole wide range of negative emotions because of it. However, there are steps you can take to recover in a healthy way and to move forward with your life.