Acts of mass violence, such as the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, cause extreme disruption and can be distressful for individuals, families and communities. Those receiving assistance as well as those involved in disaster management efforts can be affected. Disasters involving the death of children, particularly those resulting from intentional violence, can be uniquely disturbing. Ongoing national media exposure creates a disaster "community" that extends far beyond the geographic region of the event. Individual and community strength can be enhanced by interventions that address critical behavioral health issues throughout both the response and recovery phases. Ideal interventions promote the evidence-based principles of Psychological First Aid (PFA), including: safety, calming, self- and community-efficacy, social connectedness, and a sense of hope/optimism.
Immediately below are fact sheets that address important general principles to support individuals and communities after disasters, such as mass shootings. Below the fact sheets is a list of additional important issues to consider in response and recovery from mass shootings.
Click on the title to go directly to that section and applicable resources.
FACT SHEET: Helping Communities After Disasters
FACT SHEET: Coping with Stress After a Mass Shooting
Grief is a near universal experience for those directly impacted by mass violence, such as the Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting. In the immediate aftermath, some will lose loved ones or suffer injuries themselves. Many will experience increased fear and loss of perception of safety. Loss of control and life routine often compound feelings of grief. Community leaders, those leading disaster management efforts, and healthcare providers can help affected individuals by gently inquiring about, acknowledging and then allowing individuals to process grief. Grief support also involves addressing feelings of loss, mourning losses, and fears about the future. Anxiety about the future is best managed through “problem solving” (supporting people in connecting with practical help when available). Being sensitive to the need for rituals, such as memorial and funerals, to support expressions of grief allow for healing, which ultimately strengthen communities. The following resource(s) address this topic in further detail:
FACT SHEET: Grief Leadership in the Wake of Tragedies
HOJA DE DATOS: Liderazgo ante el duelo: cómo dirigir tras una tragedia
FACT SHEET: Leadership in Disasters & Lessons Learned
Common responses to disasters include distress reactions (insomnia, irritability, loss of safety, social isolation, blaming and scapegoating) and health risk behaviors (increased use of alcohol and tobacco, reduced attention to health care). For healthcare personnel, being alert to these reactions and behaviors, promptly identifying them, and providing interventions can reduce distress and improve functioning and may decrease the likelihood of ultimately developing mental disorders. Normalizing the reactions and offering anticipatory guidance about what to expect with symptoms over time, as well as when to get help and where to go, help people feel calm and enhance feelings of efficacy. The following resource(s) address this topic in further detail:
Special populations may be more vulnerable than others and warrant unique considerations. Such populations include: children, women, cognitively and mobility impaired, pre-existing mental health conditions, first responders and public health emergency workers (including volunteers). Children will need support and monitoring at home and at school. Partnering with community leaders, healthcare organizations, and local schools create opportunities to provide education and resources as well as support community efforts to reduce distress and enhance well-being. Focused interventions can more quickly and effectively address the unique needs of these populations. The following resource(s) address this topic in further detail:
FACT SHEET: How Families Can Help Children
FACT SHEET: How Schools Can Help Students
HOJA DE DATOS: Ayuda para estudiantes después de un desastre
Health risk and crisis communication is a critical behavioral health intervention following a community disaster. For those leading disaster management efforts, understanding what to say and what not to say, as well as when and how to say it are important elements. Basic principles include being clear and succinct; stating what is known and unknown; indicating when you do not know the answer, committing to following up at a specific time and then doing so; avoid lying or efforts to be overly reassuring as these erode trust. Effective communication following a disaster can reduce distress and enhance well-being for affected communities. The following resource(s) address this topic in further detail:
FACT SHEET: Leadership Communication During Crisis
Workplace management following a disaster is an important part of restoring community functioning. In addition to financial support, the workplace often provides a sense of meaning and social connectedness. Effective support for personnel in the workplace can enhance functioning for both the individuals and the organization. The following resource(s) address this topic in further detail:
FACT SHEET: Workplace and Organization Management After Disaster
Additional detailed resources can further knowledge about effective preparedness, response, and recovery measures. Some are brief while others are more detailed. While reading more detailed resources, such as books about disasters, during an actual disaster response is not likely to happen, they are much more in depth treatments of key topics that may be helpful as the initial response slows a bit to assist with immediate response and recovery and enhance preparedness for future events. Links to additional websites, fact sheets, articles, and books can be found below: