Ask Dr. Nandi: The physical and psychological effects of the mass shootings

Posted at 6:04 AM, Aug 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-06 06:04:49-04

After two mass shooting took place over the weekend, many Americans are once again feeling scared and vulnerable. Social media is seeing an increase of posts with users saying that they don’t feel safe anymore.

I am quite shocked and saddened by the horrific mass shootings that have recently taken place. And yes, senseless violence definitely has a rippling effect across our nation and can leave many people feeling unsafe.

I can understand that since shootings have happened at a variety of different places, which can make you feel a bit uneasy about going out in public.

People can also experience heightened anxiety, fear, distress, and feelings of uncertainty. It can also lead to distrust of others. And if these feelings persist over time, it can lead to mental health problems like depression.

Some people can also develop PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder but that mostly happens to those who have personally experienced some sort of trauma.

Question: We’ve heard the term “compassion fatigue”, can you explain what this is?

That’s a term I’ve heard a lot about because healthcare professionals can experience it. But now “compassion fatigue” is also being used to describe how ordinary people can respond to mass shootings. And it’s because there are so many of them.

When you’re exposed repeatedly to tragedy, you can become less compassionate and a bit numb to these types of events. It’s actually a form of secondary traumatic stress and can also affect your health.

There are things people can do so here are my prescriptions:

  1. It’s normal to react to horrific events, but shoving feelings down can affect your mental health. So please notice and acknowledge your feelings.
  2. If you feel that anxiety or other negative feelings are interfering in your daily life, please talk to your doctor. You can also look for support groups.
  3. It’s fine to watch the news but don’t overly focus on tragic events. Repeated exposure can feed the cycle of distress.
  4. Lastly, do something active. You can reach out to victims, donate to charities supporting victims, or advocate for better gun laws or improved mental health services – these can lead to positive feelings and a sense of control.