Managing anxiety after a mass shooting

Published: Jun. 6, 2022 at 4:45 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - A study from American Psychological Association found one-third of adults say fear of mass shootings prevents them from going some places.

As many parts of the nation see gun violence in everyday places, anxiety surrounding these events becomes more common. Mental health professionals say it’s clear: acts of violence around the world do impact mental health.

Kim Penberthy, Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences with UVA’s School of Medicine, said acknowledging that fear and talking about it with loved ones is a good place to start.

“In response to these mass shootings, these racially motivated shootings, these sort of violence we’re seeing, we will have all kinds of emotions, and we need to honor that,” said Penberthy.

It’s also important to realize you don’t have to solve the problem to find or provide comfort.

“Share that with each other, and really respect those emotions,” Penberthy said.

Taking care of yourself, performing random acts of kindness or donating to relief efforts may help manage anxiety. Many areas accept money for families affected by this tragedy, and getting involved in advocacy can be impactful.

“Getting involved that way can help so much to empower us to feel like we can make something good come from something bad,” she said.

While those efforts may relieve anxiety for many, others may need more attention to manage their anxiety. Penberthy said if feelings of fear are keeping you from leaving your house, it may be time to seek medical attention.

“If you’re thinking about it all the time, if you refuse to go out in public or to public activities, you really change your functioning, then it is time to sort of get help,” she said.

In many cases, tragic events may cause anxiety to resurface or to surface for the first time, Penberthy said. If you don’t feel relief by changing smaller habits, there’s treatment available.

Penberthy said in many cases, overwhelming yourself with information can cause anxiety, so limit your time watching and reading news or checking social media.

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